A few hours after the polls closed on election night, Nov. 3, Howard Tygrett thought he was going to be the next mayor of Clarkston. He still may be, but he’s apparently going to have to win a runoff on Dec 1.
For years, Clarkston city officials had been running elections based on a plurality vote, which means the candidate who receives the most votes wins. However, when county election officials asked the city to verify its results last week, city attorney Brian Downs researched city ordinances.
It turns out that there is no current ordinance in Clarkston that specifies whether elections are based on a plurality vote or if a runoff is necessary if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. If there is no specific ordinance, the city must revert to state law, which calls for a runoff if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote, Downs said.
“When the current book was written, all the old ordinances were repealed, including the election ordinance,” Downs said.
City council members Warren Hadlock and Emanuel Ransom have called a special meeting for Thursday, Nov. 12, to discuss the election process in the city.
“The council can vote to change the ordinance going forward, but it can’t change the process for this election,” Downs said.
The top two vote-getters among the four people running for mayor were Tygrett with 193 votes (44.68 percent) and Pat Davis-Morris, a current Clarkston City Council member, with 124 votes (28.7 percent). Rosemarie Nelson had 73 votes and Joyce P. Wade got 42.
Clarkston voters must turn out one more time to decide between Tygrett and Davis-Morris.
Clarkston had an ordinance that called for a plurality vote in 1970, but the city’s by-laws have been changed twice since then, said Clarkston city clerk Tracy Ashby. No stipulations were made about the election procedure in 1981 or 2003, when the ordinances were rewritten, she said.
Ashby said city officials researched the past 10 mayoral elections and found that this is the first election where there have been more than two candidates running for mayor.
Tygrett and Davis-Morris now have about three more weeks to sway voters before the runoff vote.
“I had taken all my signs down but now I’m going to put them back up,” Tygrett said. “I feel confident about the runoff. My supporters have been contacted and are ready to go.”
Tygrett has no political experience, but has years of business management experience and has been a long-time community volunteer.
Davis-Morris is the current vice-mayor and has served on the city council since 1997. She was the first woman elected to the council.