Memphis ballot measure causes confusion

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than 11,000 voters have cast their ballots during early voting in Shelby County, but that hasn't been without some issues and confusion surrounding at least one ordinance on Memphis ballots.

It's ordinance 5676, which asks voters to extend term limits for city leaders from two four-year terms to three.

"The ordinance that's being voted on was never intended to be on the ballot," attorney Robert Spence said.

The version that was supposed to be on the ballot included wording saying it would only apply to people in office after 2011.

A city attorney said he was working with several versions of the ordinance and the wrong one ended up on the ballot. By leaving the qualifying year out, former Mayor Willie Herenton wouldn't be eligible to run for office.

He's campaigning to be mayor again.

"It's deception, conspiracy, fraud and it's a damn shame," Herenton said.

City leaders insist that's not the case, noting the ordinance was approved in January before Herenton announced his plans to run.

"There is no hidden conspiracy," councilman Berlin Boyd said. "As I said to him directly, there was no attempt by myself or anyone else to block him or any other potential candidate from seeking any office."

The mistake was discovered last week.

Since military ballots are sent out 45 days before the election, the election commission says there's no way ballots can be fixed.

If the ordinance passes, Herenton can challenge it in court.

As for concerns with the language of the question being intentionally confusing or misleading, councilman Berlin Boyd said it was drafted to be as clear as concise as possible.