Voters could lose say in filling 3 City Council seats soon to be vacated

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - There are new questions about whether or not voters will have a say in three spots on the Memphis City Council expected to open soon.

That's because those three office holders were elected to seats in Shelby County government last week.

The Shelby County Election Commission said the window of time for council members to resign is very small to trigger a special election.

If they hold onto their seats, that means voters will not get a say in who replaces them when they move on to their new jobs with Shelby County.

"It minimizes the peoples' rights for who's going to be elected into that particular seat," Pastor Earle Fisher said.

It's a hypothetical scenario that became true.

Fisher wrote about it earlier this summer in the Tri-State Defender.

Current Memphis City Council members Bill Morrison, Janis Fullilove, and Edmund Ford Jr. all ran for and won county offices–Morrison as probate court clerk, Fullilove as juvenile court clerk, and Ford as a county commissioner.

The Shelby County Election Commission will certify the results of the county election on August 20.

According to the commission, the city council would have to provide notice by August 22 of vacancies to trigger a special election for open seats this coming November.

Without a special election, the three seats on the 13-member body will be filled by Memphis City Council appointment.

Those appointed office holders would hold the seats until the city's municipal election in October 2019.

"This is an instance where the citizens should be able to vote for who represents them," Fisher said.

Commercial Appeal columnist Ryan Poe joined the debate Tuesday, calling for the three to resign.

A spokesperson for the election commission said county charter gives the three 90 days to step aside, and they're paid until they do so.

The county term starts September 1.

"I know there's a concern when you start talking about double dipping, and effective very soon they'll be getting paid from the city account as well as the county account," Fisher said.

Ford told WMC5 he has no plans to step aside, and his constituents have asked him to stay. Fullilove said she planned to step aside in September. We have not heard back from Morrison.

Chairman Berlin Boyd said it's up to those members to make their own decisions.

The council meets again next Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.