Friday, April 6, 2012

Why does residency matter?

A Republican friend of mind recently commented on Facebook that he thought my concerns over David McIntosh's residency was "childish".  He did not explain why, and did not even want to discuss it.  But that friend is a locally-prominent supporter of McIntosh's Congressional candidacy, so perhaps that explains his disdain.

But some other folks have also raised this issue.  In the space of about a year and a half, we have the specter of some sort of residency issue haunt Charlie White (which I first brought to light), venerable U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (which I had nothing at all to do with), and David McIntosh, were I was one of the earliest people talking about it, nearly a month ago.

But why does it matter?

My first thought, as a lawyer, is respect for the law.  The law requires certain things of us as voters in terms of residency, and to a greater or lesser extent, as a candidate.  Local candidates often have to live in the district they wish to represent and to be properly-registered voters in that district.  Falsifying a voter registration to qualify for office, or to retain office, is considered serious enough in Indiana that it is a felony.  Assuming that you can do whatever you want because you have power, or position, or because you think no one cares, is the height of arrogance.

But the philosophy behind these laws is more important.  That is, to represent people in a democratic system, you must be of and from the people you represent.  You must be sufficiently connected to them, their lives, and their concerns to represent them whether it is in a town council, a state legislature, or in Congress.  The best way to assure that is for the candidate to actually live with and know the people he or she would represent.

This is why the residency of Dick Lugar and David McIntosh matter so much to so many people in this election.  Not because some people think that the law may have been violated.  But because voters want their representatives to be one of them, not someone who used to live here and moved to another state.