Election Commission certifies Pigeon Forge liquor result

Mar. 22, 2013 @ 11:16 PM

The Sevier County Election Commission certified the results of the Pigeon Forge liquor referendum during a brief meeting Thursday. Now anti-liquor group Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge has five days to decide whether to contest the results.

Chairman J.B. Matthews said there was no change in the initial count, meaning that the margin of 952-798 still stands.

Several members of Forging Ahead attended the meeting, and chairman Ken Maples thanked election officials for their work. No one from CCCPF spoke, and the group didn’t appear to have a representative present for the meeting.

After the meeting concluded, Maples said he hopes the opponents will let the deadline pass.

"It’s gratifying to see it certified,” he said. “Our team worked extremely hard, and this ispart of the process. We still have a five-day waiting period for the contest, and we certainly hope the opposition allows it to pass and we put this behind us all and move on together."

While CCCPF members weren’t present for Thursday’s meeting, chair Jess Davis has previously indicated the group would meet Thursday to review its own findings about the election results.

Davis has said the group questions the legality of votes by property owners dubbed one percenters — people who received one-percent interest in property inside the city, which allows them to cast ballots in municipal elections. State law allows for two such votes per property.

Even if a judge tosses those votes, it appears CCCPF would need to find a number of questionable votes to exceeds the 154-vote margin of victory. Election officials indicated the total number of one-percent property owner votes was less than 50.

The group successfully contested November’s election after officials acknowledged that almost 300 ineligible voters cast ballots in the election. However, officials said that happened because the municipal election was held on the same day as the presidential election and the election for state offices. That led to confusion on the part of poll workers as to which voters should be allowed to vote.

There should be no major issues in that regard with the most recent election; no other issues were on the ballot.

In fact, the commission rejected two provisional ballots during Thursday’s proceedings from property owners who had not properly registered.

Commissioners also read a letter from former Commissioner Darrell Whitchurch, who retired at the start of the month because he was moving. In the letter, he mentioned the issues from the previous election.

“I want to encourage you to act on the recommendations of our lawyer,” he wrote. ”Please evaluate the effectiveness of the staff and existing training protocols. Our recent problems need to be addressed.

“Mr. Francis showed us we had and still have some serious issues that need to be followed up on.”

Commissioners didn’t elaborate Thursday on those issues.

Whitchurch has been replaced for now by Liz Pierce, who had served on the commission previously.

Pierce, who was present in that capacity at the election last week, said a permanent replacement for Whitchurch will be selected in April

jfarrell@themountainpress.com