Two weeks before the primary election, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ruled a candidate for Metro Council’s District 1 seat is ineligible to run.
Teacher and activist Ameerah Granger filed in December to try to become the next representative for District 1, which includes the West End neighborhoods of Chickasaw, Parkland and Park Duvalle. She had lived in the district for 15 years, until Louisville’s political boundaries were redrawn last November. The redistricting process happens every ten years following the federal Census.
Even though Granger moved into the newly redrawn District 1 in January, Judge Olu Stevens ruled she didn’t meet the requirement under state law that a candidate live in the district they seek to represent for a full year prior to the election.
“I wish there was something I could do, because we want these things to be decided by the voters, not judges,” he said from the bench Tuesday. “But there are qualifications for running for Metro Council or any position. There’s not much the court can do about that.”
Stevens is expected to release a written ruling Wednesday, which will outline how elections officials will deal with Granger’s disqualification.
Aside from Granger, there are four candidates running in the Democratic primary for District 1.
Two lawyers representing the Jefferson County Board of Elections argued Tuesday it would be impossible, at this point, to reprint ballots without Granger’s name on them.
State law requires printing to begin at least 50 days before an election. That means officials started printing ballots for the May 17 primary in late March.
Since voters will see Granger’s name on their ballot, local elections officials are expected to place notices in voter precincts explaining that she was disqualified and any votes for her will not be counted.
Kathleen Parks, another Democrat running for the District 1 Metro Council seat, filed the challenge to Granger’s qualifications in late March. Parks previously said the lawsuit was not personal, but instead about election integrity.
Following the verdict, Parks told WFPL News she was happy with the outcome.
“I think the voters and the constituents have a real clear answer today about why I brought this petition up, and it ensures, moving forward, that the election process has integrity,” she said.
Granger testified at the hearing that she sought advice from state and local elections officials before she decided to move into the new District 1. She said their guidance on the one-year residency requirement was unclear, given the context of the recent redistricting.
“I would just hope that this process could be laid out more expressly for any candidate,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair for someone interested in pursuing public office to have to worry about their own legitimacy, much less the legitimacy of other candidates.”
The Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, which manages local elections in Louisville, does not vet any of the candidates whose names appear on the ballot. The only way for an ineligible candidate to be removed is for their political opponent to challenge their qualifications in court.
On the stand, Parks said she researched the addresses of her fellow District 1 candidates in January. She said she realized then that Granger had issues with the residency requirements, but she did not say anything to Granger or elections officials.
“I was hoping that she would understand that what she was doing was illegal and that she would correct the action on her own,” she said.
Parks said it was “an even bigger red flag” when Granger was not allowed to interview for the temporary appointment to represent District 1 after Jessica Green announced her resignation. At the time, a representative for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office told WFPL that they disqualified Granger because of residency concerns.
Granger told WFPL News she was disappointed in the judge’s ruling and was reviewing her options. She said it was “really hurtful” to be presented as someone who was trying to skew the truth.
“In many ways, that was a mischaracterization of how I carry myself on a regular basis and also the situation,” she said. “It’s not like I moved across town. I tried to stay in the district that I’ve lived in for 15 years.”
Granger added that she will continue to serve the west Louisville community and advocate for progressive causes.
“The ruling was disappointing, but it does not deter me from continuing to do what’s right and fight for what’s right, to fight for those who are oppressed and those who maybe aren’t as outspoken as I try to be,” she said.
All odd-numbered Metro Council districts will be up for reelection this year. Winners of the May 17 primaries will face opponents of other parties in the November general election.