I’m thankful for the great state of Tennessee, for the people who serve in its government and who represent us in Washington, D.C., and for all of you who do your best to be citizens fully engaged in self-governing.

I hope everyone enjoys this day of reflection and celebration.

Extreme makeover: recall edition

On November 6, 2012, Chattanooga voters opted to amend their city charter by repealing one section and inserting new language having to do with recalling an elected official.

Or, put another way, Chattanooga voters simply made official what a state appellate court has already decided: that the requirements pertaining to validation of petition signatures have been set by the Legislature.

Several provisions in Chattanooga’s recall procedure were out of line with state law, but the one change that motivated this amendment—from requiring 50% of the number of voters in the last election to requiring 15% of registered voters—is one of two* pieces the state statute leaves flexible. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-5-151 (j) carves out the ability for qualified municipalities to set their own numeric thresholds, if they enact or amend charters after June 1997.

Do you feel like you just went in a circle? Hold tight and get something to clench your teeth on, because this post is going to get wonk-y. Continue reading

A five-step last-minute cram session

Some of the people nearest and dearest to my heart (ahem) have waited until today to figure out what all is on the ballot and for whom they will vote. It’s OK. I’m a huge procrastinator; it’s just that I geek out on elections, so I have the information-gathering part done already.

Here is a quick-ish “guide to the guide” that you—I mean, your friend—can use to assemble a voting plan.

Step One

First, know what kinds of elections are on the ballot beside the presidential race.

  • In Tennessee, we are electing one of our two U.S. Senators. Sen. Bob Corker is running for re-election, and faces multiple opponents.
  • All nine U.S. House seats are up, all nine incumbents are running for re-election, and all of them have opponents.
  • Some of you may have a state Senate election in which to participate; the Senate alternates even- and odd-numbered districts every two years. This time, it’s even-numbered.
  • Everyone will have a state House of Representatives election to decide. Well, in many cases there is only one candidate, but the seat’s still on the ballot.
  • There may be local elections where you live. Town councils, boards of aldermen, city commissions, and such.
  • Finally, there are often ballot measures, aka referenda, wherein the voters directly decide to implement or repeal some bit of law.

Step Two

Second, find your districts. Look at your voter registration card, if you have it. If not, you can use Project Vote Smart (federal and state only), your county election commission, these Tennessee district maps, or the Tennessee Secretary of State’s voter lookup. Remember: your districts may not be the same as the last few times. They all changed after the 2010 census.

Step Three

Find out who is running for each office in your districts. That can be done here on a combination of pages (see below), or, if you live in Hamilton County, you can simply hop over to the voter guide. News outlets in most other major Tennessee cities also have published something similar. (The Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, e.g.)

To use Tennessee Ticket:

  1. Go to the Tennessee House of Representatives page, click on your district number near the top of the page, and you will jump to your House candidates.
  2. Go to the Tennessee Senate page, and if your district is even-numbered, click it and jump to your candidates.
  3. Go to the U.S. House of Representatives page, click on your district number near the top of the page, and you will jump to your House candidates.
  4. Go to the U.S. Senate page. There are no district numbers; all candidates are listed.
  5. Go to the President & Vice President page. All candidates on the ballot in Tennessee are listed.

Step Four

Your penultimate step is very important. You have to find out what these candidates stand for, how they’ve voted in the past (if applicable), whose pocket they’re in, and all kinds of things that, frankly, it’s too late now to expect to finish. Just do the best you can. Scour their websites. Read their tweets and Facebook messages. Search the internet for articles about them, and take everything with a grain of salt.

Step Five

Assemble your voting preferences before heading to your polling place. Write down or tap into your mobile device the name of the candidate you have chosen for each position on your ballot. Also record any decisions you have made regarding amendments or referenda. Be prepared.

Now that you have done all of these things: GO VOTE.

Thank you.