During a recent meeting of the Coffee County Budget and Finance Committee, county officials discussed the possibility of eliminating primary elections for county offices.
Commissioner Margaret Cunningham brought up the idea, saying that eliminating primary elections could save county taxpayers up to $60,000 during an election year.
The Coffee County Commission could by majority vote pass a resolution for a private act to make county elections nonpartisan, according to Andy Farrar, administrator of elections for Coffee County.
“This would have to be approved by the State General Assembly and then ratified by a two-thirds vote of the county commission,” Farrar said.
The current process
There are now primary elections for county offices, according Farrar.
Currently, if the political parties want to hold a primary election, they must notify the Coffee County Election Commission.
“Each political party notifies the election commission that they will hold a primary election for each upcoming general election,” Farrar said.
To ensure there will be a primary election, the parties must notify the county election commission at least 180 days before the qualifying deadline for each election, said Farrar citing T.C.A 2-13-203.
The estimated cost for primary elections varies.
“Estimated cost, depending on what year and the number of offices being elected in a primary election, (is) between $30,000 and $50,000,” Farrar said.
“During a Presidential Primary Election the county is reimbursed by the State of Tennessee,” he added. “All other primary elections are paid by the county general fund.”
Changing the process
County officials have the power to change the process.
“The county commission could by majority vote pass a resolution for a private act to make county elections nonpartisan,” Farrar said.
That resolution will have to be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly and then ratified by a two-thirds vote of the county commission.
Once the private act is approved, all county elections covered by the resolution and the private act would be nonpartisan, added Farrar.
Nonpartisan elections in the cities
There are no primary elections for the elected officials in the cities.
If the county changes the process for county elections, it will become similar to that of the two cities.
Tullahoma City and Manchester City elections are nonpartisan, said Farrar.
For more information about the elections process, call the Coffee County Election Commission at 931-723-5103.
Elena Cawley may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.