Lee Mills lives in Shelby County, but a court must decide where Amber Mills lives.
Shelby County Commissioner Amber Mills will have to go before chancery court to determine whether she is eligible to continue seeking reelection for her seat representing District 1 amid questions about whether she qualifies under the county charter.
The decision by the Shelby County Election Commission comes just days after her husband, Lee Mills, was found eligible by a Shelby County chancellor to run for House District 99 as a Shelby County resident.
The political couple might live in the same house, but their cases are different, an attorney for the Shelby County Election Commission said Wednesday. In Lee Mills’ case, Shelby County Chancellor Jim Kyle ruled that he was a Shelby County resident based on the requirements to run for House District 99.
But in Amber Mills’ case, whether she can stay on her ballot will be governed largely by the county charter, which requires that candidates be “registered voters in the district from which they seek election on the date they filed their nominating petition and have been residents of the county for one year prior to the election.”
"Chancellor Kyle, Shelby County Assessor Melvin Burgess, the Fayette County Assessor, and Tennessee state law say we are residents of Shelby County," Amber Mills told The Commercial Appeal in a written statement Wednesday. "The census bureau and election commission do not determine residency."
Amber Mills ran uncontested in her Republican primary earlier this month and is slated to face Democrat D. McDonald-Martin in the general election. She has represented her commission district, which includes Arlington and Millington, since 2018.
Lee Mills, the former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party and a Republican state executive committee member, previously had his residency in Shelby County challenged by Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins, Kyle ultimately ruling he could remain on the ballot.
He faces Tom Leatherwood, the current House District 99 representative, in the Republican Primary Aug. 4. He lost to Leatherwood in 2020 but his residency was not challenged then.
At issue is whether the Mills home in Arlington is in Shelby County or neighboring Fayette County. Depending on which map is consulted, it is in one or the other.
In the Lee Mills hearing in chancery court, testimony was heard from Matthew Hill, who does mapping for the Tennessee Comptroller's office, and William Porter, a local surveyor. The lengthy testimony included the reading of the detailed descriptions that accompany deeds and a granular analysis of how the U.S. Census and surveyors draw maps.
The U.S. Census has Shelby County ending on the west side of the Mills Arlington home and in Fayette County. The Shelby County Register of Deeds has the border to the east of the Mills home and within Shelby County limits.
Amber Mills' case could also not be dealt with at the same time as Lee Mills' case since her election was already underway, attorney Jacob Swatley told members of the Shelby County Election Commission Wednesday.
On Wednesday, primary results were certified.
However, Commissioner Vanecia Kimbrow said she would have preferred to refer Amber Mills' residency to chancery court immediately, if it had been discussed with the full commission.
Rather, the commission's Republican members met in private with legal counsel to discuss the Mills matter, Kimbrow said Wednesday, without the two Democrats receiving notice of the meeting.
“You’re not counsel for the Republican commissioners, you’re not counsel for the Democratic commissioners," Kimbrow said, addressing Swatley. "You’re counsel for the entire body.”
Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at email@example.com, 901-529-2799 or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Lee Mills lives in Shelby County, but a court must decide where Amber Mills lives.