Bradley County Commission members found themselves at an impasse over a vote to change how people would run for their offices in the future.
With an even 7-to-7 vote during its Monday meeting, the Commission rejected a resolution that would have made those running for a post to choose certain seats ahead of time.
Instead of just electing a candidate to represent a certain county district, candidates would have also had to designate if they would run for “seat A” or “seat B” in a given district. Currently, commissioners need only choose to represent a certain county district.
As their votes would later confirm, commissioners seemed evenly split on the issue when they spoke about it, addressing or dismissing a range of concerns along the way.
“The fact that we won an election last time, but stand the chance of losing the election next time is evidence that the policy in place works,” Commissioner Mark Hall said.
“I think this gives the aroma that someone’s trying to manipulate an election. … This is in very bad taste at best.”
Hall also said he thought it was “too late in the game” for such a change to be made before the 2014 election because potential candidates can begin the required petitioning process as soon as this Friday.
Commissioner Ed Elkins, who had distributed a list of bullet points in favor of the resolution prior to the meeting, pointed out that it was permitted under state law for a local government body to do what the resolution proposed.
In support of the resolution, Commissioner Jeff Yarber said he believed the measure would be beneficial for voters because it would allow them to better pinpoint which Commission seat holders needed to be kept or changed.
“I don’t believe that this gives any means of corruption,” Yarber said. “This gives each person the ability to vote for the two people they want in.”
Commissioner Terry Caywood expressed concern the new election rule would create a situation in which current commissioners would have run unopposed because new candidates might have chosen to just run for the seats that had not been held by those running for re-election.
“If this were to pass, it would benefit me personally in a way that I don’t want,” Caywood said. “I don’t want an unfair advantage because I’m an incumbent.”
Commissioner Jeff Morelock said he did not know if there would be much of a change in the way people voted because voters could already decline making a choice on a certain part of a ballot.
When all was said and done, the votes were split 50-50, even after commissioners were given one last chance to change their votes before they were made final.
Because the resolution’s vote was tied, by Commission rule it is said to have failed. Commissioners have not announced plans for any sort of “tie-breaker” vote.