Drew's views

Drew's views

March 8th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

HEADLINE: Hamilton County Election Commission to study write-in candidates in District 9 election, decision next Wednesday

THE RECAP: The Hamilton County Election Commission voted 5-0 on Thursday to look at the seven write-in candidates in the District 9 Chattanooga City Council election before it makes a decision next Wednesday on whether there will be a runoff in the race between Peter Murphy and Yusuf Hakeem.

It takes 50 percent plus one vote to win, and, thanks to the write-ins, neither man hit the mark: Hakeem got 49.98 percent of the vote. If the write-in votes aren't counted, Hakeem would win. If no winner is declared, then Hakeem and Murphy will face each other April 9 in a runoff.

DREW'S VIEW: If just one of the seven voters who wrote-in a candidate had voted for Yusuf Hakeem, he would have won. It's one of the few examples in the history of elections in America where every vote actually mattered. It's exciting that it happened right here in Chattanooga.

So, who did the write-in voters cast their votes for? According to Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, the Hamilton County Administrator of Elections, Melony Collins, Michael Dwayne Davenport and "J.J." each received a vote. As did District 8 candidates Andraé McGary and Moses Freeman. Two ballots were marked "Write-in" with no name written in -- apparently protest votes.

While it might be easy for the Hamilton County Election Commission to pretend as if the seven write-in votes don't exist and simply award the council seat to Hakeem -- which is what Mike Walden, the chairman of the election commission, apparently wants to do -- it wouldn't be right.

Even if the write-in voters who voted for themselves, as it appears two did, wanted a candidate from another district to represent them, as two others did, or thought some dude name J.J. should be on the City Council, their votes are as valid and worthy as the others cast in District 9 on Election Day. To pretend their votes don't matter or don't exist would be a travesty.

If the Hamilton County Election Commission cares at all about the city's voting laws, the significance of voting and the principles of a representative democracy, the commissioners will count the seven write-in votes and send Hakeem and Murphy to a runoff.

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HEADLINE: Georgia lawmakers look to allow vote on firework sales

THE RECAP: The Georgia state Senate easily passed a resolution to let voters decide whether fireworks sales should be legal in the state. Taxes on the fireworks are expected to raise an estimated $5 million annually to be split between firefighter training and trauma care. The resolution is expected to pass in the state House, as well.

DREW'S VIEW: Just when East Ridge leaders finally thought they had a way to generate revenue and drive people to Ringgold Road, Georgia lawmakers found a way to spoil all their fun.

Like any enterprising boarder town, East Ridge searched for a way to give folks from the other side of the state line the opportunity to buy something that they can't get at home. For some border cities in other states, the goods range from lottery tickets and cheap tobacco to prostitution and alcohol. For Georgia residents, the draw of coming to East Ridge is fireworks: a forbidden fruit in the Peach State.

Fireworks stores have only been legal and operating in East Ridge for eight months and, so far, they seem to be a benefit for the town. Revenues are up, the stores created a few jobs and, as far as we know, no drunken rednecks have managed to shoot a buddy's eye out with a Roman candle.

If Georgians vote to allow firework sales, however, East Ridge's competitive advantage in the fireworks business will be short-lived. An enterprising business owner could potentially open up a fireworks store less than a mile from several East Ridge stores in Fort Oglethorpe.

Since Georgia sales taxes are less than Tennessee's, it would only make sense for Southeast Tennesseans and North Georgians alike to buy fireworks in Georgia.

It looks like East Ridge's hopes of getting Georgians across the state line and filling city coffers will soon fizzle like a damp sparkler.

"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared in the Times Free Press over the past week. Follow Drew on Twitter: @Drews_Views.