Mick Wright, Chairman of the Recall Ritz effort and on the Shelby GOP board, posts this note on facebook:
Earlier today, members of the Recall Ritz campaign met with Richard Holden, Administrator of the Shelby County Election Commission.
Unfortunately, we received the bad news that we cannot move ahead with the recall of Shelby County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz.
The Election Commission pointed us to a section of the legal guidelines governing recall elections, as found in the Tennessee Code and the Shelby County Charter, indicating that recall elections may only occur on general election dates.
Even though there is a possibility that four separate special elections could be held this year, the Election Commission says none of them qualify as a general election date. Potential special elections that could be held this year include:
the municipal school referendums
the municipal school board elections
a city of Memphis sales tax referendum
elections for six additional consolidated school board members
The next general county election isn’t until August 2014, at which time Chairman Ritz’s term in office expires (and, in addition to that, elected officials are protected from any recall during their last 180 days in office under the Charter).
Beyond our disappointment that Ritz will be allowed to complete his term, we are disturbed by what we have learned of recall election law in general. Essentially, elected officials are immune during the first six months and throughout the final 31 months of a 48-month term. Any recall process would have to begin no earlier than month seven and no later than month 17 of a four-year term, a very narrow window.
This limited time-frame available to recall defective elected officials adds to an already significant burden citizens face getting a recall election added to the ballot in the first place. Citizens must gather signatures from 15% of the registered voters eligible to vote for the office in question, within a span of just 75 days.
As we’ve seen recently in Southaven, it is important for voters to have the ability to remove elected officials whose continuation in office brings danger and disgrace to the entire community.
It is now clear that the laws governing recall elections in Shelby County and Tennessee are insufficient and need to be reformed. Now our focus shifts to seeing to it that our recall laws are improved.
We appreciate all the support you’ve given to the campaign to Recall Ritz, and we hope you’ll join us in this new effort to return power to the citizens.