Nashville Voters On Returning To The Polls: ‘Dumb,’ ‘A Struggle,’ ‘A Waste’ | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville Voters On Returning To The Polls: ‘Dumb,’ ‘A Struggle,’ ‘A Waste’

May 24, 2018

As Nashville voters headed to the polls Thursday, many expressed frustration over the turn of events that have led to a snap special election for mayor.

Thirteen candidates are vying to fill out the remainder of former Mayor Megan Barry's term. She stepped down in early March, after pleading guilty to a charge of misusing government funds in connection with an extramarital affair.


Voters, including some who were once supporters of Barry, said they felt a bit of anger.


“As a woman, my expectation, especially for first-time office holders in a major office... Come on. Be smart,” said Maggie Tucker, an art teacher from South Nashville.

The candidates include Barry's successor, Mayor David Briley. He was the head of the Metro Council and, according to the Metro charter, holds the office until the special election is complete.


A dozen others hope to knock him out of that perch, including conservative commentator Carol Swain, Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, community activist Jeff Obafemi Carr and state Rep. Harold Love. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff would be held in June.


More: When Nashville Votes For Mayors, There's Often A Runoff — Here's Why


The special election comes on the heels of local primaries and a referendum on mass transit held May 1. 


"I think making everybody come back out again, it's kind of turning the election on its head," Walter Blackman said as he headed to the polls in his neighborhood off West End. "It's not really giving people enough time. ... Driving people to the polls is already a struggle."


Voters in Metro Council District 1 have a second race on their ballots. Five people are vying to fill the seat vacated when Nick Leonardo was appointed General Sessions Court judge.

About 35,000 ballots were cast during early voting, and election officials are hoping about as many do so on Election Day. That would still make this among the lowest-turnout elections ever in Metro Nashville’s history.


Empty voting booths at a South Nashville polling location show that voter enthusiasm for the special election is low.
Credit Blake Farmer / WPLN

Election officials say they don't know yet how much balloting will cost. A legal brief filed by the city estimated it at about $1 million.

"I think it's a waste of taxpayers' money," Belle Meade voter Annie Peters said. "I think the money could have been spent on something much more important. I'm sorry that what the last mayor did, that Nashville's still paying for her mistakes."

City officials fought to postpone the election. The Davidson County Election Commission originally wanted it to coincide with the primaries for state offices in August. But the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the Metro charter requires the election to take place 75 to 80 days after Barry's resignation.

Some said it might have been better to just wait until next year, when Barry's term would have been up.

"I would have preferred that Briley serve out the term and vote then," said Kristin Carson. "It seems like a lot of money for a short period of time."

"Well, I sort of agree," her husband, Andy, added, "but the rules are the rules, and so you follow the rule, and if it's a dumb rule, then maybe we should change it."

Corrections: The Tennessee Supreme Court issued the ruling that the Metro charter requires the election to take place 75 to 80 days after Barry's resignation. A previous version misidentified the court that made that determination.

A previous version also misstated the first name of Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore.