Knowledgebase-Voting in Municipal Elections

Information Product

Title:Voting in Municipal Elections
Summary:MTAS was asked under what conditions can people who live outside the
city, but own property inside the city, vote in city elections.
Original Author:Hemsley, Sid
Product Create Date:01/16/2002
Last Reviewed on::05/08/2017
Type:Legal Opinion
Legal Opinion: Outside Property Owners Voting public.doc

Reference Documents:

Text of Document:
January 16, 2002

Dear City Administrator:

You have the following question: Under what conditions can people who live outside the city, but own property inside the city, vote in city elections?

Persons who live outside the City but who own property inside the City cannot vote in city elections.

Tennessee Code Annotated, 2-2-107(a), provides that:

A person shall be registered as a voter of the precinct in which he is a resident, and if provided for by municipal charter or general law, may also be registered in a municipality in which he owns real property in order to participate in that municipality’s election. [Emphasis is mine.]

There is a general law that authorizes outside property owners to vote in municipal elections in the cities in certain counties, and in certain cities themselves, that fit within specified population brackets. [Tennessee Code Annotated, 6-53-102(b)–(f)] However, none of those population brackets in that law apply to the County, in which your city is located, or to the City of itself.

Let me also say here that in my opinion, even if one of those population brackets contained in Tennessee Code Annotated, 6-53-102 did apply either to cities in your County, or to the City itself, they are all clearly unconstitutional “class legislation” in violation of Article 11, 8, of the Tennessee Constitution . [White v. Davidson County, 360 S.W.2d 15 (1962); Stalcup v. City of Gatlinburg, 577 S.W.2d 439 (Tenn. 1978); City of Chattanooga v. Harris, 442 S.W.2d 602 (1969); Pirtle v. City of Jackson, 560 S.W.2d 400 (Tenn. 1977); Hart v. City of Johnson City, 801 S.W.2d 512 (Tenn. 1990); Vollmer v. City of Memphis, 730 S.W.2d 619 (Tenn. 1987).] I will not discuss that issue further, unless it becomes one for the city.

The City of is chartered under the general law mayor-aldermanic charter. That charter contains no provision permitting persons residing outside, but owning property inside, the city to vote in municipal elections.

For those reasons, persons who reside outside the city, but who own property inside the city, are not, and cannot be, authorized to vote in city elections.


Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant

Please remember that these legal opinions were written based on the facts of a given city at a certain time. The laws referenced in any opinion may have changed or may not be applicable to your city or circumstances.

Always consult with your city attorney or an MTAS consultant before taking any action based on information contained in this database.