Sims' Fate Rests With
Loudon County Election Commission

The immediate political future of Lenoir City mayoral candidate, Jo Sims, now rests in the hands of the Loudon County Election Commission. Tonight, August 28th, the board will convene to certify the list of candidates who have qualified to run for office in the November Lenoir City election. Also on the board's agenda will be a decision as to whether Sims name will be allowed to remain on the ballot.

The question of Sims eligibility to run for office has been raised by one of his opponents for, Robert "Tooter" Robinett. Robinett delivered a handful of TCA laws that he maintains proves Sims can not run for office. Robinett's challenge revolves around Sims felony convection for gambling in 1996. Robinett maintains that Sims did not complete all the requirements necessary to have his citizenship rights restored back in 1998 and therefore can not run for office. Robinett also delivered the sane documents and more to State election commission officials in Nashville.

These are the facts of the case. Sims was convicted of a gambling crime in 1996, a felony.  After completion of his obligations to the state, Sims made application to have his rights of citizenship restored that would allow him to vote or run for office. In 1999, Sims ran for Lenoir City council. At that time his eligibility to run for office was first raised. State Election Commission Officials, Kathy Summers and Beth Henry-Robinson stated that Sims had met all the requirements necessary and his rights had been restored on December 16, 1998 and that he was eligible to run for any office except sheriff or constable. Sims ran for a city council seat but was defeated. Mr. Sims has voted in every election since he was reinstated in 1998. Sims has worked in a number of capacities for the Loudon County Election Commission and his eligibility has never been questioned.

Now suddenly when Sims decides to run for mayor and by all polls and accounts, Sims appears to be the front runner candidate, things turn strange. Sims opponent, Tooter Robinett, provides documents and pages of TCA law that he could not possibly have acquire or understood without legal assistance and most amazingly, the same state election commission official who approved Mr. Sims to run for office in 1999 are now saying he can not run in 2008 and here's why.

According to state election commission officials, the law that existed in 1998 that cleared Sims to run back then has now changed and the new law would prohibit Sims from running. The state election commission officials state that the new law retroactively requires Sims to meet new and additional requirements to have his full citizenship rights restored. This is of course absurd. State election commission officials seem to be ignoring a small constitutional matter that prohibits the making of any ex post facto laws. 

Section 11 of the state constitution prohibits the legislature from passing any laws that would increase the punishment for any crime that was committed prior to the creation of the new law.

State Constitution Sec. 11. No ex post facto laws.

That laws made for the punishment of acts committed previous to the existence of such laws, and by them only declared criminal, are contrary to the principles of a free Government; wherefore no Ex post facto law shall be made.

It would be like if you got a speeding ticket, you went to court and paid your $100 fine. Then ten years later the court tells you that the fine for speeding has gone up to $200 and since you hadn't pay the extra $100 dollars your license was revoked. Pretty silly? Same thing in Sims case. He met the requirements in 1998 but in 2007 the law changed and since he didn't meet the requirements of the new law, he was disqualified.

Never mind the all the legal aspects. Tonight five average, unassuming Loudon county residents who serve as the Loudon County Election Commission have an enormous decision to make. To remove a candidate from the ballot is no small decision. They will have to make their decision based on the information available to them. However to remove Sims from the ballot would be a serious mistake and a breach of the law and the State Constitution.

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8/28/08