Democratic Party members file lawsuit against Executive Committee over ex-officio voting rights • Tennessee Lookout


Four members of the Tennessee Democratic Party's executive committee have filed a lawsuit against the organization seeking to strip unelected committee members of their right to vote on party matters.

Plaintiffs Randall and Meryl Rice, Erick Huth and John Summers filed suit Monday in Davidson County Circuit Court, claiming there is no provision in state law that gives ex officio members the right to vote.

State law requires both the Democratic and Republican parties to have executive committees composed of one man and one woman from each of the state's 33 Senate districts. Members are elected every four years in August primary elections.

However, the Tennessee Democratic Party fields a representative from the Democratic caucuses of the House and Senate, the Tennessee Federation of Democratic Women, the Tennessee Democratic County Chairs Association (TDCCA), the Tennessee Young Democrats, College Democrats and High School Democrats.

According to a legal opinion provided to the TNDP in March by the law firm Stranch, Jennings and Garvey, state law does not prohibit political parties from increasing their executive committee membership beyond the required 66 members, nor does it prevent members from being elected or elected be appointed – by vote.

The lawsuit stems from a controversy that arose at the Jan. 27 TNDP Executive Committee meeting, where members voted to amend the charter to add an ex-officio voting member role for the High School Democrats .

All four plaintiffs voted against the measure.

In a memo to county party chairs, Jordan Wilkins, chairman of the County Chairs Association, wrote that “many of the members who requested a legal opinion on the legality of ex officio members have never had a problem with ex officio members before. as long as it was people who voted with them. One of the members even once held an ex-officio position himself,” presumably referring to Randall Rice, a former chairman of the TDCCA.

Gary Blackburn of Nashville represents the plaintiffs. The TNDP is represented by Nashville attorney Dave Garrison and Memphis attorney JB Smiley Jr.

Neither state Democratic Party Chairman Hendrell Remus nor Randall Rice responded to requests for comment.