October 5, 2004
You have the following question: Does one voter residing in an area outside the urban growth boundary that is being considered for annexation by referendum satisfy the requirement that the referendum apply to the “qualified voters who reside in the territory proposed for annexation,” under Tennessee Code Annotated, § 6-51-105(a).
I was asked this same question a couple of times about a year ago. I spent a long time researching what I think was every case in the United States that I thought might address that question. Surprisingly, none did.
However, Rules of Statutory Construction for the interpretation of the Tennessee Code Annotated are contained in Title 1, Chapter 2 of that Code. One of those rules provides that, “Singular includes the plural and the plural the singular, except where a contrary intention is manifest.” [Tennessee Code Annotated, § 1-3-104(c)] As far as I can determine, there is no contrary intent manifested in Tennessee Code Annotated, § 6-51-105(a). Arguably, a referendum involving more than one voter is more meaningful than one involving one voter, but if only one person lives on property proposed for annexation, there appears to me no reason a referendum involving only his vote does violence to Tennessee Code Annotated, § 6-51-105. It appears tome that the city has a good argument that the word “voters” in that statute includes “voter.” [See Royal Jewelers Co of Knoxville v. Hake, 205 S.W.2d 963 (1947), which appears to be the only reported or unreported case that interprets Tennessee Code Annotated, § 1-3-104(c)].
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant