published Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Bradley County votes down district plan

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A proposal that would have required candidates to fight for specific districts seats on the Bradley County Commission failed by a narrow margin Monday.

The Bradley County Commission voted 7-7, falling one vote short to enact such a measure presented by Commissioner Connie Wilson and receiving support from Bradley County Commission Chairman Louie Alford, Commission Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe and Commissioners Ed Elkins, Brian Smith, Charlotte Peak-Jones and Jeff Yarber.

The creation of separately designated offices for County Commission districts was deemed to be "in the best interest of the legislative body and the citizens of Bradley County," according to Wilson's proposal.

If the measure had passed, it would have ended the current election system in place for Bradley County Commission district seats, in which voters may cast ballots for up to two candidates in their district and the candidates that receive the most and second-most votes win the seats.

Supporters of the proposal cited it was a better execution of the "one man, one vote" concept and it eliminated "single shot" voting, in which a voter casts one instead of two votes in a district race so as not to weaken one candidate's relative ballot strength.

The existing system does not encourage people to vote and does not mathematically spell out to "one man, one vote," said Lowe.

"It looks like the motto for this project is, 'If it ain't broke, let's break it'," said Commissioner Mel Griffith, who strongly opposed the measure.

Commissioners Terry Caywood, Jeff Morelock, Bill Ledford, Robert Rominger, Mark Hall and Bill Winters also opposed Wilson's proposal.

"I think the fact that we won the election last time but you stand a chance of losing the election next time is evidence that the [existing] policy works," said Hall. "I think this gives the aroma that someone's trying to manipulate the outcome of an election."

The timing of the proposal is also "late in the game," said Hall, noting that petitions will be available for those seeking candidacy in the 2014 races Friday.

Morelock and Winters, who supported and opposed the measure, respectively, each cited conflicts regarding the current and proposed election system options.

"I really don't think [the proposed change] is going to make much difference, to be honest with you," said Morelock, who also stated that he didn't know that a voter was doing anything unethical or immoral if he chose to cast a single shot ballot.

"It's just tough to make decisions about yourself and the process of working in the best interest of others," said Winters. "I can see pluses on both sides of the situation."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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