The Memphis City Council voted to spend thousands of dollars on a public awareness campaign for voters, despite the fact early voting started last week.
It’s about three referenda on instant runoff voting, term limits and the suspension of runoff. Not all 13 council members were present for this vote. However, 8 council members were, which is a majority and that is how the council was able to get the ordinance passed.
There are still no details on how much this will cost, but Council Chairman Berlin Boyd says as much $40,000 is available.
The vote surrounds an ordinance that gives the council the green light to use funds to educate voters on three referenda on the November ballot.
“I think we’ve gotten hundreds of requests from the council to explain their position on these items under our ordinances,” said Allan Wade, Attorney for the city of Memphis. “This is very technical, IRV is very non- educator friendly. It is very complicated and to be able to undo it is very complicated.”
The ordinance was a write-in and added during the council meeting.
“It was never deceptive but it’s something that we needed to do in a timely manner because our election is coming up and we need to get ahead of this and we need to educate our public about what is going on,” Boyd said.
Chairman Boyd says this will be a campaign solely for educational purposes. However, he did not reveal just how much of taxpayer money will be spent or who would get the money.
“I don’t really know an answer to that because we’re looking at what level of education we’re doing. Will it be media ads, Facebook ads, will it be push cards,” Boyd explained.
Boyd stresses this campaign will not be used to encourage people to vote in a way, but law professor Steven Mulroy is not buying it.
“No one had heard of this last minute, 11th hour, under cloak of night without public notice transferring of public funds to basically propagandize to get their version of the referendum passed,” Mulroy said.
Reporter, Annette Peagler asked Chairman Boyd when this educational campaign will be rolled out and how it will be done. We are told those details are still being finalized. However, he says it will be very soon, given that election day is exactly two weeks away.