Knowledgebase-Voting in Municipal Elections
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