"Your voice has been silenced. For now," says Hal Rounds, the attorney who is representing Cordova's Voice pro bono.
It all came down to the way a state law about annexation was interpreted. Rounds says the law states citizens initiate the annexation or de-annexation by a petition; the Election Commission's legal team says the state election coordinator interpreted it as the municipality – in this case Memphis – has to initiate the de-annexation.
"The Election Commission is not evaluating whether it's a good idea or a bad idea or legal or illegal for the citizens to de-annex," says John Ryder, attorney for the Shelby County Election Commission, "It's simply a question of whether or not there is a mechanism under state law to have a referendum."
Cordova's Voice says Wednesday's setback does not mean the end of the line for their mission. Rounds says they have two paths to choose from: File a lawsuit against the Election Commission's decision or pursue the Memphis City Council to create a de-annexation ordinance.
"If you did a petition to the city council saying, 'Listen to us! Put it on the ballot!'" says Rounds, "Are they going to ignore you?"
In the meantime, the group is encouraging Cordova citizens to reach out to their state senators and representatives.
"What has happened is we have taken to voting people into office and then going about our lives trusting that they're going to do what we want," says Rounds, "But they've stopped doing that, and then they've stopped listening because we didn't talk up."
Cordova's Voice is also seeking out the federal government for action, "Suing all annexation being unconstitutional the fact that the citizens have no right for representation, and it's pretty much taxation without representation because you're being annexed and you're not given a choice," says Joe Fox with Cordova's Voice.
One piece of state legislation the group tried to pass to stop all forced annexations for good was watered down recently, only stopping forced annexations for a year.
"Every bill is going to get watered down because there's people who oppose you and they have a certain degree of influence too," says Rounds, "You have to overcome them, and if you're silent that will never happen."
Cordova's Voice is working to reintroduce their original idea for the legislation in January.
The group's next meeting will be Thursday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cordova Community Center on Sanga Road.
MORE: Cordova starts petition to de-annex from Memphis: http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/story/21886623/cordova-starts-petition-to-deannex-from-memphis
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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