Election results have been tossed before
The last time a local election was overturned in Tennessee it involved allegations similar to those that led opponents of the liquor-by-the-drink referendum in Pigeon Forge to file a contest of the Nov. 6 vote.
The most recent election to be overturned in Tennessee came in Wilson County in August. There, the local chancellor overturned the results of an election in the Lebanon Special School District Board in August. This doesn't mean the contest of the Pigeon Forge election has any special merit or stands a good chance of being tossed out; it only indicates that officials have invalidated local elections before.
According to a story from The Wilson Post, Chancellor C.K. Smith said “mistakes, omissions or irregularities” made the true result of that election unclear.
In the first election a retired school teacher defeated a longtime incumbent by one vote, 1,468 to 1,467. During the hearing on the matter, two people testified that the election didn’t appear on their ballots despite being eligible voters, and the administrator of elections acknowledged there were issues with the maps they used to determine which voter were eligible, according to reporting from The Wilson Post.
Smith ordered the new vote to be added to the ballot of the general election held earlier this month. The second time around, the incumbent won re-election in another close vote.
In Pigeon Forge, voters approved the LBTD referendum on Nov. 6 by a tally of 1,232 to 1,132.
However, opponents of the measure filed a contest of election after discovering what they claim were 303 votes cast in that election that they say election officials couldn’t confirm came from Pigeon Forge residents or property owners eligible to vote in city elections.
Some individual voters here have filed formal complaints, saying that either they live in the city and the referendum didn’t appear on their ballot, or they live outside the city and were allowed to vote on the measure.
It will be up to Sevier County Chancellor Telford Forgety to rule on that matter; if he tosses out the election results it would also be up to him to decide when a special election would take place.
Forgety has not yet set a date for the trial or for any hearings on the matter, but attorneys representing the two sides have been in contact with each other.
Attorney Lewis Howard Jr., who represents the Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, has filed a set of interrogatories seeking specific details about Election Commission procedures.
Dennis Francis was retained last week to represent the Sevier County Election Commission. He said Wednesday that officials with the office were working to answer questions raised in the complaint.
Forgety is required to hold a hearing on the matter within 50 days.
Election Administrator Ronee Flynn said Wednesday her staff was reviewing election records, and could now account for some of the 303 votes mentioned in the lawsuit as coming from eligible voters.
To overturn the election results, the opponents will need to prove to Forgety that the outcome is rendered “incurably uncertain” due to questionable votes.
In a previous election, state officials said that has typically meant that the opponents will need to prove the total number of questionable votes was greater than the margin of victory.