Floyd Bonner files lawsuit against Election Commission over Memphis residency requirement

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 2:00 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 14, 2023 at 2:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner has filed a lawsuit against Shelby County Election Commission over a five-year residency requirement that could disqualify him as a mayoral candidate.

This comes after a newly-published legal opinion that could remove him, former Mayor Willie Herenton, and former Shelby County Commission Chair and Memphis NAACP President Van Turner from the race.

None of these candidates meet the five-year requirement.

Sheriff Bonner recently purchased a home in Memphis after living in Bartlett for years.

In the lawsuit, Bonner argues that the City of Memphis’ five-year residency rule no longer exists since a 1996 ballot referendum voted on by the people of Memphis eliminated the five-year requirement for city council and mayoral seats.

He also cites Allan Wade, an attorney for Memphis City Council, who believes candidates must be a resident voter and taxpayer of the City of Memphis to run, but under no minimum residency requirement.

However, others who plan to run for mayor say otherwise. Action News 5 reached out to all 11 people who have said they plan to run for mayor, although not all have responded.

“I didn’t have to move to the city to run for mayor of this city, and I think the very fact that we’re asking this question, the answer is right there,” said MSCS school board member Michelle McKissack. “It’s a problem.”

Tennessee House Minority Leader Karen Camper, who also plans to run, told Action News 5:

Linda Phillips and members of the Shelby County Election Commission are listed as defendants in the suit.

Phillips is the administrator of elections for the Shelby County Election Commission and is responsible for conducting and supervising the Oct. 5 election.

“We want to make sure we’re following the requirements of the city when this election takes place,” said Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Mark Luttrell.

“When there’s a municipal election to be held, we go to that municipality, we get with their legal guidance,” said Luttrell. “We say, ‘What does your community require?’ and then they give us the requirements.”

One of the requirements, according to city attorney Robert Meyers, says you have to live in Memphis for five years to be eligible to run.

“It needs to be resolved one way or the other,” said Memphis businessman J.W. Gibson. “I can understand why Floyd wants to have clarity around this.”

Steven Reid, Bonner’s campaign strategist, released a statement on the lawsuit:

Turner also released the statement and tells Action News 5 he plans to take legal action either this week or next week.

Bonner’s lawsuit was filed in Chancery Court, a judge will decide what’s next.

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