Still no contest of liquor vote

Deadline may have passed; law isn’t clear
Mar. 27, 2013 @ 11:38 PM

It looks like the results of the latest referendum on the sale of liquor by the drink will stand.

The deadline has apparently passed for liquor opponents to file a contest of election in Chancery Court, meaning the measure will stand after voters approved it by a vote if 952 in favor and 798 against.. When the Sevier County Election Commission certified the election results, Chairman J.B. Matthews said the group had five days — including Saturday and Sunday — to file a contest of election.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of State indicated Tuesday that the law isn’t completely clear in that regard.

“Pursuant to [state law], ‘the complaint contesting an election under [state law] shall be filed within five days after certification of the election,’” Blake Fontenay said. “This is the statutory language to which we refer individuals, and the language we use to compute any deadline for a contest of election which we provide in the calendar of elections.

“We also inform interested parties that in Woods v. Jones ... the court found that Rule 6.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure defines the manner of computing the time period and does not conflict with (state law). The pertinent portion of Rule 6.01 states, ‘when the period of time prescribed or allowed is less than 11 days, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays shall be excluded in the computation.’

“Because the court in Woods based its decision on the language of the Rules of Civil Procedure, we have not provided individuals with any advice on applying the Rule 6.01 to the statute. We leave that up to the attorneys involved in the lawsuit and the courts.”

Voters appcroved liquor by the drink in November, by a margin of 1,232 to 1,132. However, liquor opponents Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge filed contested those results and the election commission eventually acknowledged about 300 votes were cast by people who came to the Pigeon Forge polling place from outside the city so they could vote in the state and national elections the same day.

Chancellor Telford Forgety tossed the November results for the city election and ordered a re-vote for March 14.

Concerned Churches chairman Jess Davis has indicated the group would review the March results and was considering filing another contest of election.

The election commission used an entirely different group of poll workers in the latest election, and the vote didn’t include any issues for consideration by voters outside the city. However, Concerned Churches representatives have said the group was considering raising issues with so-called 1 percent voters — people who live outside the city, but were allowed to vote by virtue of having as little as 1 percent interest in property inside the city.

Local and state officials have said the practice is legal; Davis and CCCPF have maintained it is not. The law only allows for up to two voters per property.

Election officials said the number of voters registered using that rule was far less than the 154-vote margin of victory for the measure.

Davis ran an ad in The Mountain Press on Feb. 27 indicating he would abandon his run for a seat on Pigeon Forge City Commission and would “pull up stakes and retire” if the measure passed legally.

In an email exchange with the newspaper Tuesday, he said he would answer questions about that ad and about CCCPF’s decision in an interview set for today.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com