Ballot Bits: What’s With Those Charter Amendments?

In The Daily Dumpster Blog by Thomas Fraserleave a COMMENT

Tucked away at the bottom of the ballot that you’ll see Nov. 8—presuming you have not yet voted—are four proposed amendments to the Knoxville city charter.

One proposed amendment would move city primaries for council members, municipal judge and the mayor to the last Tuesday in August in odd-numbered years, a month earlier than they are currently held. Three of the amendments are fairly mundane, house-keeping adjustments to the city’s pension system.

The city wants to change the primary date to allow more time to prepare final ballots between primary and general elections. Ballots must be sent to overseas and military voters prior to the general election, and Knox County Administrator of Elections Clifford A. Rodgers calls the current six-week turnaround “extremely problematic.”

Moving the primary election a month earlier would give city election officials more time to certify primary results before the general ballots are prepared and mailed. Voting machines must also be tested after primary results are certified, and before early voting begins for the general election. Changing the primary date would not cost the city any additional money.

“Changing the date of the primary from the last Tuesday in September to the last Tuesday in August will help election officials in managing a smooth transition from the City’s primary to the general,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero says in a guide to the charter amendments on the city website. “The change would have no additional cost and could potentially save taxpayer money by avoiding preparation of any amended ballots and any reprogramming of the voting machines.”

As for the changes in the city pension plan, the second proposed charter amendment would provide an avenue for divorced couples to more easily split pension payments. The amendment would allow for creation of an “alternate payee.”

The third amendment would create a clearly defined death benefit, and ensure no one convicted of murder would be able to collect a pension. The fourth amendment would allow the city Pension Board to recommend supplemental plan provisions to City Council to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and assure the plans remain tax-exempt.

For details on the four proposed amendments to the city charter, go to knoxvilltn.gov.

Knox County-based journalist Thomas Fraser is a native of Charleston, S.C. who grew up in Oak Ridge and Knoxville. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and has worked as an editor and reporter for daily newspapers and websites in Tennessee, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia.

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