MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Prominent former Memphis politician John Ford has filed to run for Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk, but his name may not appear on the ballot because of his past.
Ford’s full citizenship rights in Tennessee were stripped after a 2007 bribery conviction. Although his voting rights were restored in 2016, his right to run for office was not.
That means he can’t seek or hold public office, although he filed anyway on Tuesday.
“I was a little surprised,” said Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips.
Phillips said that in all likelihood, Ford’s name still won’t appear on the ballot because of the citizenship rights issue.
He’d have to get a court to restore his rights and he only has until Dec. 12 to do so, as they explained to Ford in a letter.
“The only way he can appear on the ballot is if he presents the Election Commission with a certified copy of a judicial order that restores his right to run for public office,” Phillips said.
WREG has emailed Ford and we are waiting to hear back.
University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy can only speculate as to how Ford might convince a judge to restore his right to run for office.
“He might have some argument that since the statute was passed after he was convicted, that it would be an ex post facto problem, that you can’t retroactively punish somebody,” Mulroy said.
But Mulroy has doubts about if that argument will work.
Ford, a former Tennessee state senator, Memphis city councilman and a member of a well-known family of Democratic politicians in Memphis, previously served as General Sessions Court Clerk from 1992 to 1996.
Ford was convicted of accepting a bribe in 2007 as part of the Operation Tennessee Waltz sting. He served 52 months in prison before his release in 2012.