At the end of the 2017 legislative year, on May 10, Senator Mae Beavers failed to accomplish her
efforts a) to dislodge Mrs. Lisa Peterson from her duly appointed position as Election Commissioner
and b) to usurp the Democratic Party’s right to select the person they want to serve on the Election
Commission in DeKalb County to represent the interests of the Democratic Party. The Republican
Party, being in the majority, has three representatives and the Democratic Party has two on the
commission. Each party selects the persons they want to represent the respective parties.
Mrs. Peterson was unanimously approved by the State Election Committee. On April 3, 2017
Senator Beavers, whose17th District includes DeKalb County, immediately attached an Amendment
(Amendment 3) to House Bill 0671 (SB0925) in an effort to have Mrs. Peterson removed from the Election Commission. The Amendment was in violation of the First Amendment of the United States
Constitution, United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10, and Article 1, Section 11 of the Tennessee State Constitution. One cannot target an individual or category of individuals to impose
punishment or punitive measures on them and one cannot pass a retroactive law. The Democratic
Caucus, with bipartisan support, was able to push back Senator Beavers’ Amendment.
The bill was sent to Conference Committee, which is a committee appointed by the House of
Representatives and Senate to resolve disagreements on a particular bill. Members of the
committee appointed on April 24 were Beavers, Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), Sen. Reginald
Tate (D-Memphis), Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis), and Rep.
Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), whose bill Beavers attached her amendments.
Sen. Beavers then submitted Amendment 4, which stated that “A former administrator of elections ….shall not serve as a member of the appointing county election commission.” Amendment 4 failed because, on its face, it violates Constitutional law.
The makeup of the conference committee changed on Tuesday, May 9. Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver
(R-Lancaster) replaced Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), and Rep. Larry Miller (D-Memphis) replaced
Rep. Cooper (D-Memphis) on the conference committee. Still undeterred, Beavers introduced Amendment 5, which stated “A former administrator of elections…shall not serve as a member of the appointing county election commission for a period of five years after the person leaves office as an Administrator of Elections.” This too was rejected by the House.
With Ketron and Miller absent Wednesday, May 10 Beavers introduced Amendment 6, which
changed the five year period to 10 years. Mrs. Peterson left the office of Administrator of Elections in
April, 2009—eight years ago. Rep. Carr, whose bill (HB0671) had the burden of the various materializations of Sen. Beavers’ original Amendment 3, rejected Amendment 6, because it carried the same burden of all of the other Amendments. It remains, on its face, unconstitutional. Rep. Carr asked that his bill be rolled to the next legislative calendar in January, 2018.
The State Legislature is being used by Senator Beavers for personal vindictiveness against someone
whose only interest is to be a public servant on the Election Commission, an important post which often
goes unacknowledged. This is not in the public interest. Had Sen. Beavers’ Amendment passed, Republicans would be negatively affected as much, if not more, than Democrats given their current majority. A quick review of the counties demonstrates that it is not at all unusual for a former Administrator of Elections to serve on an Election Commission. The former Republican Administrator of Elections in Davidson County, for example, has served as an Election Commissioner.
Someone raised the question from the floor of the House about the possibility of a former
Administrator asking questions to a current Administrator. It is the expressed duty of
an Election Commissioner to ask questions to insure that the laws of the State are being
implemented. Why would any person in a public office fear being questioned by a citizen
and knowledgeable person?
We still have a two party system. Senator Beavers’ Amendment 6, on its face, violates the state and
federal Constitutions. Her interference in a Democratic Party selection process undermines the
basic principles of our Democracy. When did it become acceptable for one Party to dictate selections for another Party?