The legal wrangling is over, the Metro Council debate no longer matters and there will be no more emotionally charged Election Commission meetings.
Early voting began Friday for the English Only special election, bringing with it continued opposition from Mayor Karl Dean.
The Metro charter amendment proposal would state that English is the government’s official language and that no one has a right to services in any other language. Nashville English First, the group led by Councilman Eric Crafton, added a provision stating Metro Council can make exceptions for public health and safety.
Another amendment would make petition-driven charter amendment proposals easier to accomplish.
The arrival of the early voting period for the referendum carried with it another message of opposition from Mayor Karl Dean, who has called the English Only proposal divisive and said it sends the wrong message about Nashville.
“The proposed charter amendment will have absolutely no effect upon efforts to curtail illegal immigration or to reform current national policy,” Dean said in an e-mail statement sent to his supporters. “Rather than permitting voters to send a message to the government, the referendum alters our charter in a way that will create legal, political, social and even moral consequences for years to come.”
Early voting at Howard School building will continue through Jan. 17. About 20 voters approached by The City Paper on Friday during voting hours were running about 50/50 for and against English Only.
Among those who arrived to vote Friday were former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice A.A. Birch in addition to District 8 Councilwoman Karen Bennett.
Birch told The City Paper that he voted against both charter amendment proposals, but did not elaborate beyond that.
Carson Salyer was one of the Nashville voters who came out to vote against the English Only proposal. Salyer said English Only would make Nashville seem like an “exclusive community” if it were to pass.
“I think that if this passes it would hurt the justice, diversity and the cosmopolitan nature of our city,” Salyer said.
Marie Stevens voted in favor of English Only, because she felt it would encourage immigrants to learn English and assimilate better.
“I don’t think it’s right that our children should have to learn Spanish,” Stevens said. “I think they should learn English when they come here.”
Here is the full early voting schedule at Howard School:
Jan. 5-9: 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 10: 9 a.m. until noon
Jan. 12-16: 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 17: 9 a.m. until noon