City officials approved 5-0 on Monday the first reading of an ordinance that mandates all property rights voters — voters who do not live within the city limits but do own property in the city — to cast their vote via absentee ballot after county election officials proposed the change during Monday’s meeting.
The ordinance must pass a second reading in February before it can go into effect.
Rhea County Administrator of Elections Tom Davis said the change in election rules would allow for a smoother voting process during both early voting and on Election Day.
“I think it will make things easier for the election commission and for the voters and the polling place,” Davis told city council members on Monday.
Absentee ballots are available each election and are mailed to voters who then mark their ballots and then mail them back to the election commission.
Davis said that by having property rights voters use absentee ballots, it could cut down on lines and confusion at the polling place.
There are currently 179 property rights voters registered in Dayton, Davis said, and should the ordinance pass, he said election officials will notify voters of the change.
Dayton Vice Mayor Steve Randolph said that if the ordinance does pass, property rights voters would not have to re-register to vote, they would simply be notified of the change.
“I think this could increase voter participation among property rights voters as well,” Randolph said.
Dayton City Council Member Bill Graham said the city will likely review the effectiveness of the new process after the April 2015 election and either continue the practice or return to the older method depending on the proposal’s success.
“It has the potential to work out fine,” Graham said. “I can see how this would make things a little easier for some by just having to send ballots and papers through the mail.”
With the ordinance passing the first reading on Monday, it must now pass a second reading in February, following a public hearing. The second public hearing will take place on Monday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 p.m., with the second reading following during the city council’s monthly meeting.