Challenges issued by Unicoi County citizens in regard to two candidates residency failed at a Unicoi County Election Commission meeting on Sept. 11.
Commissioners refused to bar either Sue Jean Wilson, chairwoman of the Unicoi County Commission and a candidate for the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen, or town of Unicoi Alderman Doug Hopson from the November ballot.
Hopson, who hopes to reclaim his current seat, received the first residency challenge, by county resident Bart Ray, based upon his ownership of a house in Erwin.
Hopson said in an election commission meeting held on Aug. 24, and in the Tuesday, Sept. 11, meeting, that the home located in Erwin is furnished and under contract to be sold, hopefully by November.
Hopson maintained on Sept. 11 that his residency has been declared at 108 Hopson Lane in the town of Unicoi; he said the majority of his time is spent there.
I took the house on trade out here [in Erwin] to sell and its been hard to sell, Hopson said. Ive got two addresses and Ive used both addresses. Im in Unicoi. I didnt say I stay in Unicoi at night or 24 hours a day, Im in Unicoi every day working.
Commissioner Marvin Rogers said after reviewing the law book and correspondence with District Attorney Tony Clark and Tennessee Assistant Coordinator of Elections Beth Henry-Robertson, Hopsons presence in the town of Unicoi is moot.
Rogers explained the determination must be made based on the candidates intent when filing paperwork.
Your presence in Unicoi really doesnt make any difference, Rogers said. If you werent there ever, that doesnt come into play. The fact that you are there is a plus, but that really isnt part of the equation. Its just the intent or the movement and the action that would determine [the commissions decision.]
Town of Unicoi resident Judy Ray, who spoke on behalf of her son Bart Ray, said the issue doesnt involve personal agendas or political affiliations. We just all need to bide by what the rules say, she said.
County resident John Day said he read a copy of Hopsons deed of trust for the home in Erwin, which stated that Hopson would maintain the home as his primary residence. However, Rogers said later in the meeting that he was informed by Election Commission Deputy Teresa McFadden that the State determines a candidates primary residence by the address on their voter registration card.
Rogers said Clark cited T.C.A. codes 2-19-109 and 2-2-122 to help clarify the situation. Commissioner Roland Bailey pointed out that 2-2-122 (2)(a) states, There can be only one (1) residence.
Clark wrote in his e-mail, which was read aloud by Rogers that Robertson, is of the opinion that no party involved had the intent or fraudulent means in obtaining an elected position. Rogers continued to read the e-mail from Clark that said Robertson declared it to be legal for a person to have two residences as long as one of them is declared their home.
Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey clarified further.
In talking with Tony Clark and also Beth Henry-Robertson at the State election office, they both used multiple examples to illustrate that we have many citizens who have multiple residences and when they sign their voter registration card, they can only register to vote at one place, she said. Under law they are saying that is their residence.
In a motion made by Rogers and seconded by Commissioner Bill Beckman, the commission voted unanimously to approve Hopson for the November ballot.
Unicoi County Commission Chairperson Sue Jean Wilson was challenged over her interest in running for a seat on the town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
During the Aug. 24 meeting, Day questioned Wilsons residency and ability to run in the town of Erwin mayoral election.
Day later sent an e-mail to the Election Commission stating that he wished to formally challenge Wilsons petition, although she had been certified at the meeting.
Wilson, who was asked to step down from the county commission over a similar residency issue by County Commissioner Gene Wilson in 2009, said at the Tuesday meeting that she maintains her residence at 412 Unaka Way in Erwin.
Wilson said the address appears on her drivers license and voter registration card.
For the remainder of this article please pick up the Sept 18 edition of The Erwin Record!