Jordan Wilkins, the Chairman of the DeKalb County Democratic Party is taking issue with State Senator Mae Beavers over a measure she has tried to get passed in the General Assembly that would keep Lisa Peterson from serving as a member of the local election commission.
Peterson, a former Administrator of Elections in DeKalb County, mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge after she lost her position when Republicans took control of the election commission in 2009. Person was joined in that legal challenge by former Election Administrator Mary Lynn Bush of Cannon County. Mary Lynn Bush is the mother of Cannon County 4th district Commissioner Brent Bush and the wife of former Cannon County Executive Dale Bush.
Wilkins recently recommended Peterson for a term on the local election commission to replace Richard Hearon Puckett, who resigned. The Tennessee Election Commission, which has the final say, approved Peterson’s appointment.
Senator Beavers has sought legislation this year to bar anyone from serving on a county election commission if he or she has ever been in litigation against that particular election commission and lost the case.
The amendment to Senate Bill 0925 states that “no person may serve as a member of a county election commission if the person has been a plaintiff in litigation against the county election commission on which the person seeks to serve and the court ruled in favor of the county election commission”.
Wilkins is accusing Beavers of targeting one person, Peterson, in seeking such action.
“Senator Mae Beavers has committed an egregious act of pettiness and vindictiveness by proposing an amendment that violates a number of provisions in State and Federal Constitutions,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins further alleged that Senator Beavers is also abusing her power as a State Senator.
“The proposed amendment (Senate Amendment 0223) to Senate Bill 0925/House Bill 0671 targets a particular individual, Lisa Peterson of DeKalb County, who was recommended by the DeKalb County Democratic Party to fill one of two seats on the local Election Commission,” Wilkins explained. “Since the Democrats are the minority party, the Republicans are allowed to select three and the Democrats to select two Commissioners.”
According to Wilkins, both candidates recommended by the DeKalb County Democratic Party were approved by the State Election Commission on April 3, 2017. Later that same day, Sen. Beavers proposed SA0223 to a bill that had already passed the House. Wilkins said the purpose of the amendment is to deny Mrs. Peterson the right to serve as a Commissioner on the DeKalb County Election Commission.
“The position put forth by Sen. Beavers is that since Mrs. Peterson had sued the DeKalb County Election Commission this should render her ineligible to serve as Commissioner,” he explained. “Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment is intended to use the law retroactively to remove Mrs. Peterson from the DeKalb County Election Commission. Mrs. Peterson has been sworn in by the State and has been elected by unanimous consent by the DeKalb Election Commission to serve as its secretary for the next two years.”
Wilkins went on to state that not only does Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment violate the principles of the two-
According to the legal opinions sought by Wilkins and others, Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment, on its face, is unconstitutional, based on the following:
1. Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by prohibiting a person who has sued an entity or persons serving in that entity from serving in a public office, thus violating the guaranteed constitutional right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
“Citizens are guaranteed the right to file suit in our court system and not be punished or denied an opportunity to be of service to the public because they have availed themselves of their constitutional right to do so,” Wilkins said.
2. The proposed amendment is a violation of the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, which states that no state shall … pass any bill of attainder or Ex Post Facto law. “A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them” (Justice William H. Rehnquist).
“SB0925 was amended with SA0223 to single out one commissioner that the State Election Commission unanimously approved to serve on the DeKalb County Election Commission,” Wilkins explained.
3. SA0223 is a violation of Ex Post Facto Law. Article 1, Section 10 of the United States
Constitution states that “no state shall pass any bill of attainder, Ex Post Facto Law,” and Article 1, Section 11 of the State Constitution states that principle of law: a state cannot pass a retroactive law. “Therefore, a retroactive law is unconstitutional,” he said. “It violates both Federal and State Constitutions.”
“We should expect more from Senator Beavers than her unconstitutional targeting of an individual willing to provide public service,” Wilkins said. “Shouldn’t Senator Beavers, for example, be more concerned about healthcare, education, job opportunities and improved infrastructure for the citizens of our state?”
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