Term limits ruling could mean problems for absentee ballots

When the Tennessee Supreme Court gave its ruling on term limits Wednesday, it did not give instructions to the Shelby County Election Commission on how to handle absentee ballots that have already been mailed out; ballots listing Walter Bailey and Cleo Kirk as candidates for the Shelby County Commission.

On the Shelby County Election Commission's website, Walter Bailey and Cleo Kirk are still listed as candidates.

"We're just looking for direction from the state coordinator of elections as to how we continue to proceed, and what it means for the status of our ballots," said Shelby County Election Commissioner Maura Sullivan.

Another court injunction in the Shelby County Sheriff's race delayed the election commission from sending out absentee ballots on time, which according to Sullivan turned out to be a good thing.

"Because we were in a position with the sheriff's race where we were on hold waiting for some opinion on that on printing ballots, we have only mailed out overseas and military ballots," she said.

The commission was finally able to mail out 1,400 overseas and military ballots Tuesday night, 10 days after the deadline. But now that Walter Bailey and Cleo Kirk are no longer candidates, it is not clear what will happen to those ballots.

What is clear is that the election commission is in a holding pattern, meaning no ballots are being printed, and electronic voting machines must be re-programmed. It all means more work and overtime for staffers.

While it did not provide instruction for the election commission, the court made it clear that it is not inclined to interfere with the election process as scheduled.

That means the May primary will go on as scheduled, and so will the election commission.

'We'll do every thing that we need to do to insure every vote is counted and every vote it counted appropriately," Sullivan said.

Bolton, Bailey, and Kirk had previously asked the county to pay for their legal challenge. Because they lost the case, the Supreme Court ordered them, and not the taxpayers, to pick up the court costs.