The move for a referendum on the repeal of ranked-choice voting and an amendment proposed to tighten the governance of parades and public demonstrations were hot-button items reflected in the number of signs and their messages at a 2017 Memphis City Council meeting. (Photo: Johnathan Martin)
Carlos Ochoa

by Carlos Ochoa

Legal documents show that Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade is actively working to impede the implementation of ranked choice voting (RCV), an issue which has been decided by Memphis voters in both 2008 and 2018.

Wade argues in legal documents that RCV cannot be implemented in Memphis because the Memphis City Council has not provided policy guidance to the Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC), despite the fact that Wade himself has had the request for guidance in his possession since at least July 2018. Rather than working diligently to fulfill their civic duty, the City Council and its lawyers are working to undermine the outcome of local elections.

Wade’s attempt to obstruct the election results was presaged by the Tennessee Election Coordinator, Mark Goins. Mr. Goins, an appointed official, issued an opinion shortly after the 2018 election that RCV does not comply with state law and that a planned 2019 implementation could not occur. That opinion is being challenged by several plaintiffs in an administrative petition for declaratory order. Two additional plaintiffs, Ranked Choice Tennessee (RCTN) and City Council candidate Britney Thornton, have moved to intervene in the case.

Upon notice of RCTN and Ms. Thornton’s petition to intervene, Mr. Wade quickly drafted a legal strategy to prevent their participation. In doing so, Wade attempted to obstruct the results of the 2008 and 2018 elections by stating that 1) RCV cannot be implemented because 2) the City Council has not provided the requested policy guidance to the SCEC. Rather than advising his clients to fulfill their civic responsibilities, Wade argues the council has not, cannot or will not follow the law as outlined in the Memphis City Charter. 

The City Council either instructed Wade’s actions or are oblivious to them. Either way, the Memphis City Council must be held accountable for carrying out the results of the 2008 and 2018 elections. They must follow the law.

Many questions remain about the City Council’s attempt to circumvent election results:

• What do the City Council members know about Wade’s attempt to overturn the 2008 and 2018 election results and when did they know it?

• How much taxpayer money is Allan Wade being paid to obstruct election results?

• Will the City Council provide the SCEC with RCV policy guidance for swift implementation in the case a chancery judge rules for a 2019 RCV election?

• What good are elections if they change nothing?

Ranked Choice Tennessee calls on the City Council to provide the SCEC with policy guidance and to rein in their lawyer’s obstruction of the 2008 and 2018 election results. By doing so, City Council members have an opportunity to rebuild trust with the people of Memphis.

(Carlos Ochoa is the communications director for Ranked Choice Tennessee. Reach him at [email protected]; call 901-248-7915, ext.1. Visit