Elec­tion com­mis­sion ap­proves can­di­date ros­ter for up­com­ing Bradley County races

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OBITUARIES - BY PAUL LEACH COR­RE­SPON­DENT

CLEVE­LAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Elec­tion Of­fice will soon post the sam­ple May 1 bal­lot on its web­site.

“We are just wait­ing on the state to give us fi­nal ap­proval be­fore we pub­lish the sam­ple bal­lot,” Fran Green, Bradley County elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tor, said Mon­day af­ter­noon.

Green’s state­ment fol­lowed the Bradley Elec­tion Com­mis­sion’s 4-0 vote to ap­prove the 42 can­di­dates who qual­i­fied for the bal­lot as of the Feb. 15 dead­line. Forty-one of the can­di­dates have qual­i­fied for the Repub­li­can pri­mary; a can­di­date who seeks a Dis­trict 7 county com­mis­sion seat has qual­i­fied for the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Bradley County vot­ers will go about choos­ing their 14 com­mis­sion­ers — each dis­trict has two seats — a lit­tle dif­fer­ently this elec­tion cy­cle. In the past, the can­di­dates who earned the most and sec­ond-most votes in a dis­trictwide race claimed the dis­trict’s two com­mis­sion seats. Now, can­di­dates fight for a given dis­trict’s Seat A or Seat B.

Last sum­mer, the Bradley County Com­mis­sion voted 8-6 to change the decades-old method of elect­ing com­mis­sion­ers from a dis­trictwide can­di­date pool.

Elec­tion of­fi­cials say the com­mu­nity hasn’t re­ally ap­proached them about the new com­mis­sion se­lec­tion process, but that could change when it comes time to cast votes.

“I haven’t heard any­thing yet and no­body’s reached out to me,” Elec­tion Com­mis­sion chair­man Travis Henry said af­ter Mon­day’s meet­ing. “I imag­ine folks may have ques­tions the day of the elec­tion. We want to make sure our of­fi­cials can ex­plain at the booths at that point.”

Bradley County Com­mis­sion Vice Chair­man Jeff Yar­ber, who cham­pi­oned the change to com­mis­sion seat elec­tions, has called for an “open mind” on the new method. The old way of elect­ing com­mis­sion­ers dis­cour­aged peo­ple from us­ing both their votes out of fear of hurt­ing their fa­vorite can­di­date, he has said.

Bradley County’s 2014 pri­mary elec­tion archives show not every voter cast two votes in com­mis­sion races. For ex­am­ple, the Oak Grove precinct tal­lied 962 vot­ers, but only counted 1,409 votes to­tal for the dis­trict’s four-way com­mis­sion race. The Hopewell precinct counted 816 vot­ers, but only 1,199 votes be­tween its four com­mis­sion can­di­dates.

Com­mis­sioner Howard Thomp­son, one of the six com­mis­sion­ers who voted against Yar­ber’s pro­posal, has said he didn’t see a need to change some­thing that worked for nearly 50 years.

Twenty-two can­di­dates, in­clud­ing 12 in­cum­bents, seek to fill the com­mis­sion’s 14 seats. Only four in­cum­bents face op­po­si­tion. Vot­ers will de­cide six con­tested com­mis­sion seats.

Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers will de­cide who will be Bradley County’s next sher­iff and Cir­cuit Court clerk, the only two con­tested countywide seats. Sher­iff Eric Wat­son and

Cir­cuit Court Clerk Gayla Miller face chal­lenges from Steve Law­son and Jeff Young, re­spec­tively.

Early vot­ing be­gins April 11.

Con­tact Paul Leach at paul.leach.press@gmail. com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @pleach_3.

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