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Property rights voters restrictions approved
Chastain, Ryle.jpg

McMinnville officials have agreed to restrictions on how city property rights voters cast their ballots in future elections. 

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen met Tuesday and provided final approval for an ordinance that will require McMinnville property rights voters to vote only by absentee mail-in ballot. It did not pass unanimously. 

Mayor Ryle Chastain, Vice Mayor Everett Brock, Aldermen Stacey Harvey, Steve Harvey and Sally Brock voted in favor of the change, while Aldermen Zach Sutton and Rachel Kirby voted against. 

Stacey stated that he is “hyper sensitive to anything that has to do with our voting rights” and after looking into the measure thoroughly, he is satisfied with the change.

“This is just the mechanism by which the votes are collected,” said Stacey. “Rather than having a property rights voter go to a precinct … we have McMinnville, Viola, Morrison and Centertown. So, we have four municipalities within Warren County and each one of them has a board and each one of them, likely, have property owners that don’t reside within that community but own property.”

During past meetings to discuss nonresident voters, statements were made that the change might prompt voter participation. 

“I understand that this is an efficiency issue,” said Sutton. “At the heart of it, I get it. I completely get what you are saying. I don’t think there’s any impropriety here. If we are voting in favor of the absentee ballot because it is more intentional and we think there’ll be greater participation then why are we not promoting absentee ballots for all eligible voters? Why are we segregating one type of eligible voter?”

Sutton stated his belief that all eligible voters should receive an equal opportunity to vote and that none should not be segregated or limited.

A property rights voter is: One who does not live in the city, but votes in a city election due to the ownership of real property in the city; is allowed by City Charter; and must register specifically as a property rights voters.

Being an ordinance, two passing reads were required. The first was given Aug. 23. Because a second was needed before the board’s next Regular Session on Sept. 9, a special called session was held per Robert’s Rules of Order. 

All four municipalities must approve the measure on two passing reads before it can be instituted. According to election administrator Susie Davenport, Morrison is the final holdout. 

“McMinnville approved it,” Davenport said. “Centertown and Viola approved it. Morrison requires one more passing read.”