County leaders debate outside review of election system

County leaders spent hours Monday morning debating a plan to spend a few hundred thousand dollars for an outside review of the election system here. Despite many months of controversy, officials seem prepared to let the Commission continue to police itself.

The head of the non-profit Election Center told Shelby County Commissioners that hiring his outfit would restore the public's trust in Shelby County elections. But at a cost of at least $150,000, Commissioners don't seem to be buying in.

"I don't think there's more than three votes for it," said Commissioner John Willingham

The study comes in the shadow of an ongoing state investigation into election fraud during the disputed District 29 race. When Commission Chairman Tom Moss first pitched the idea, it was to find a group with NO political stake to pore over the process and to make recommendations. But Election Commission Chairman Greg Duckett said even if they do that, the Election Commission couldn't afford to implement the advice.

"Based on the day to day operations of the Election Commission, there are a number of things that we could better spend that money on currently as opposed to a study just to reinforce what we think perceptionally," Duckett said.

Moss said something needs to be done, and was surprised that his fellow Commissioners seemed opposed to this.

"It seems to be a myriad of concerns from the partisanship of it, 'it's the way we've been doing business and don't be messing with it,' to, 'it's the Election Commission's job, they should be doing it,'" he said.

If the Commission went along, the group, the "election center," would send four consultants to study the election commission, and then would make recommendations to a citizen panel.

There is no date set yet for a vote on this.