Brawls and ballots: It’s election week

Scott Frith
Government/Politics columnist

With the party conventions concluded, and the Clinton/Trump race underway, it’s easy to forget there’s an election on Thursday.

In fact, if you had forgotten about this week’s state primary and county general election, you’re not alone. Early voting turnout was below average because there is no statewide non-judicial office (governor or U.S. senator) on the ballot. Competitive statewide elections encourage political advertising and voter interest. There’s none of that this year.

Thankfully, you still have time to vote. Visit the election commission website to find your correct polling place: http://www.knoxcounty.org/election/

Shenanigans in District 18. The only local race drawing significant voter interest is the Republican primary for state house District 18. In that race, incumbent Rep. Martin Daniel faces former opponent (and former state representative and City Council member) Steve Hall, James Corcoran and Bryan Dodson.

The drama of the campaign has centered around Rep. Daniel (allegedly) shoving Steve Hall during a joint appearance on a local radio show.

At first, Daniel issued a wordy, non-apology about the incident. Then, after a criminal assault charge was filed by Hall, Daniel declined to answer any questions.

That was a mistake.

In this age of Donald Trump, Republican voters expect bombast and hyperbole. Rep. Daniel should have held a press conference and announced, “Sure, I pushed Steve Hall. He called me a liar. Steve Hall is lucky I didn’t punch him in the mouth.”

Politics is a rough-and-tumble business. Sometimes it even takes a little brawling to get elected.

Of course, Rep. Daniel could still win. Yet, by bumbling his way through this non-scandal, Daniel missed a great opportunity. As a result, Steve Hall may be heading back to Nashville.

City Election Schedule. Speaking of missed opportunities, Knoxville City Council has missed a great chance to solve a chronic problem with its elections.

As of this writing, the council is expected to approve moving the city primary election date to better accommodate military and overseas voters. City voters will be asked to approve this change in a referendum question this November.

They should. It’s a good idea. Unfortunately, these changes do not go far enough. Oddly, city elections (mayor, city council and city court judge) are held in odd-numbered years and not the more traditional even-numbered years like presidential and Tennessee’s gubernatorial elections. As a result, voter turnout is abysmal. Low voter turnout is bad because it gives disproportionate influence to city employees and neighborhood groups who are more motivated by self-interest to vote. Unfortunately, politicians elected by a few may cater only to the whims of the few.

Here’s a suggestion. Move city elections to even-numbered years. It’s tough enough to get folks to vote. The city should not hold its elections when voting is the furthest thing from everyone’s mind.
We can do better.

Scott Frith is a local attorney. You can visit his website at www.pleadthefrith.com

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