Only in Tennessee
State election officials are warning the state's 475 Democratic and Republican county election commissioners that they will get bounced off the local panels if they cross over and vote in the opposite party's Aug. 7 primary election.
Can we say violation of First Amendment rights? A Chattanooga attorney and Democratic member of the Hamilton County Election Commission certainly can.
"To me it's intimidating and it's a violation of the First Amendment," Jerry Summers said Tuesday. "The law says you can remove someone (a county election commissioner) based on cause. But to me that cause has to be something other than the way they vote."
Summers, by the way, says he voted early and voted on the Democratic ballot, so he will be no test case.
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins' office last week sent the new rule, adopted July 14 by the Republican-controlled State Election Commission, to the five-member election commission panels in each of Tennessee's 95 counties. The new rule states: "While serving on the county election commission a county election commission member should not vote in a primary of the opposite party which they represent. If a county election commissioner plans on doing so they should resign prior to voting or they will be subject to removal by the State Election Commission."
The rule apparently was sparked by a recent panel member's cross-over vote in Maury County, but it makes no sense. It's a free country, right? One man or woman, one vote -- unhampered by whatever party or church or civic club or anything else that one belongs to.
Watch this space.
Election day is when?
Don't let Hamilton County's and Tennessee's primary election day sneak up on you.
It's Aug. 7. That's a Thursday -- not the usual Tuesday that most of us think of as an election day.
It isn't the first time Tennessee has eschewed the traditional Tuesday for congressional primaries: The same was also true in recent years.
Massachusetts also has used a Thursday primary, but is back to a Tuesday this year. And Hawaii has opted for a Saturday primary before and now.
No matter what the day or date, the fact remains that it is we the people's opportunity to build our democracy -- from City Hall to the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.
On our last normal primary election day in 2012, voter turnout statewide was 18.6 percent. In Hamilton County, turnout was 23.4 percent. And that was even in a presidential election year when voter attention is usually highest.
We can do better. We must.
Dem's choice for 4th District
The 4th Congressional District -- home of the sordid Scott DesJarlais scandal -- has a solid Democrat candidate from Monteagle that you've likely heard very little about.
That's a shame, because Lenda Sherrell has a lot of good things to say and do for the 4th District, which includes all of Bedford, Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Meigs, Moore, Rhea, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Van Buren and Warren counties, as well as portions of Bradley and Maury counties.
You'll recall that the incumbent, Desjarlais, is the physician who defeated Democrat Lincoln Davis in 2010. Then in 2012 re-election campaigns, stories surfaced that DesJarlais, who campaigned as a Right to Life candidate, had pressured a former mistress to have an abortion. Somehow, he still won re-election.
Sherrell is a certified public accountant and, like many of us, is fed up with partisan grandstanding in our do-nothing Congress.
"There's a quiet majority of people in this district, people who care more about paychecks than partisanship, who are fed up and frustrated," she says on her web page.
She favors investing in workers and raising the minimum wage to $10.10. She also places an emphasis on improving education to give our children more opportunity.
Her values sound a bit more in touch with the 4th District.