General qualifications of officeholders are located in the Tennessee Code Annotated, which provides that all persons 18 years old and over, who are citizens of the United States and of Tennessee, and who meet certain residency requirements are qualified to hold office unless the person:
- Has been convicted of offering or giving a bribe, of larceny, or, of any other offense declared infamous by law, unless the person has been restored to citizenship as prescribed by law;
- Has not paid a judgment for money received in an official capacity, which is due to the United States, Tennessee, or any county;
- Has defaulted to the treasury at the time of election (in which case the election is void);
- Is a soldier, seaman, marine, or airman in the regular United States Army, Navy or Air Force; or
- Is a member of Congress or holds any office of profit or trust under any foreign power, other state of the Union, or the United States.
T.C.A. § 8-18-101.
A crime declared infamous by law essentially means a felony, or a crime which is partially punishable by disenfranchisement (loss of the right to vote). Also, there are several criminal statutes related to an official’s misconduct in office, such as official misconduct (T.C.A. § 39-16-402), official oppression (T.C.A. § 39-16-403), misuse of official information (T.C.A. § 39-16-404), and conflict of interest (T.C.A. § 12-4-101), which, upon conviction, will result in disqualification to hold office for a period of ten (10) years from the date of conviction (T.C.A. §§ 39-16-406, 12-4-102). Any disqualified person who takes office is guilty of a misdemeanor (T.C.A. § 8-18-102).
The principles for determination of residence for purposes of the election code are (T.C.A. § 2‑2‑122):
- The residence of a person is that place in which the person’s habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has a definite intention to return.
- A change of residence is generally made only by the act of removal joined with the intent to remain in another place. There can be only one residence.
- A person does not become a resident of a place solely by intending to make it the person’s residence. There must be appropriate action consistent with the intention.
- A person does not lose residence if, with the definite intention of returning, the person leaves home and goes to another country, state, or place within this state for temporary purposes, even if of years duration.
- The place where a married person’s spouse and family have their habitation is presumed to be the person’s place of residence, but a married person who takes up or continues abode with the intention of remaining at a place other than where the person’s family resides is a resident where the person abides.
- A person may be a resident of a place regardless of the nature of the person’s habitation, whether house or apartment, mobile home or public institution, owned or rented.
- A person does not gain or lose residence solely by reason of the person’s presence or absence while employed in the service of the United States or of this state, or while a student at an institution of learning, or while kept in an institution at public expense, or while confined in a public prison or while living on a military reservation.
- No member of the armed forces of the United States, or such member’s spouse or dependent, is a resident of this state solely by reason of being stationed in this state.
The following factors, among other relevant factors, may be considered in the determination of where a person is a resident (T.C.A. § 2-2-122):
- The person’s possession, acquisition or surrender of inhabitable property.
- Location of the person’s occupation.
- Place of licensing or registration of the person’s personal property.
- Place of payment of taxes which are governed by residence.
- Purpose of the person’s presence in a particular place.
- Place of licensing activities, such as driving.
These same principles, basically the physical presence with intention to make a place your residence, are also used by the courts in determining residence for other purposes.
Additional statutory qualifications are required for certain county offices, such as sheriff, and are discussed in the individual county office section. The offices and duties may vary in counties with a metropolitan government charter or a county government charter.