The Rule is Simple: Live Where You Serve

Angla MooreUpdate below the fold: I have one less Facebook friend today.

An administrative judge halted Angela Moore’s bid for a seat in the State Senate last week. Secretary of State Brian Kemp knocked her off the ballot on Tuesday. Any votes cast for her leading up to Election Day won’t be counted. The polls will have signs telling voters directly that Moore isn’t eligible … and telling voters indirectly that our elections are held together with duct tape and the power of positive thinking.

Moore and I went back and forth on Facebook on Saturday morning about this. I noted that her home address is in the 10th District, and that she should have had enough sense to consult a map before qualifying for the ballot and raising money on a campaign.

“There are many circumstances that you are not aware of and my attorneys are taking care of the issue,” she replied. “Also, there are other people that have run and have gotten a waiver to run outside of their dst.”

That’s news to me. The Georgia Constitution is pretty plain. Article III, Section II, Paragraph III of the Georgia Constitution denotes the qualifications of members of the General Assembly. “At the time of their election, the members of the Senate shall be citizens of the United States, shall be at least 25 years of age, shall have been citizens of this state for at least two years, and shall have been legal residents of the territory embraced within the district from which elected for at least one year.”

Moore appears to own two houses — one on Georgian Woods Circle near Decatur and another on Cleveland Road near Lithonia. (Hat tip to Andre Walker at Georgia Unfiltered for that.) Both are in State Sen. Emanuel Jones’ district, not the 43rd. Moore told the Rockdale Citizen that she believes the 2010 redistricting that moved her precinct out of the district was illegal, and plans a challenge on that basis.

Moore had a flash of political fame while running for Secretary of State in 2006, when the “Vote for Miss Angela” campaign rap song written by a 12-year-old boy went viral. (She came in third in a five-way primary). She ran against State Sen. Ronald Ramsey in 2008, then for Secretary of State again in 2010.

One might figure she’d know better. On the other hand, this is Georgia politics we’re talking about.  

Matthew Cardinale at Atlanta Progressive News, who has a cottage industry of exposing political train wreckery around Atlanta, started lighting her up early. Cardinale wrote that Moore stiffed him on a payment for advertising — a cardinal sin against an alternative media publisher — and then engaged in a series of obfuscations that are bizarre even by our benighted local standards.

When several weeks transpired and the debt was unpaid, Moore advised APN to talk with her campaign manager, who she said lived in Kentucky, and was named “Mr. Day.”

On July 08, 2010, APN received a call from the phone number in Kentucky, but the man identified himself as “Mr. Curry,” promising the debt would be repaid in two to three weeks.

However, when payment was not received, APN called the number again and asked for the alleged campaign manager, this time he said, “Who?”

When APN stated they were looking for the Angela Moore campaign, the man said, “Oh yeah, I do sometimes go by that name.”  He said he would contact Moore, but no payment was ever received.

I mentioned Cardinale’s view to Moore. She called him a liar. I said I’d bring that up with him, which he seems to have enjoyed immensely. And now Moore and I are no longer trading cat videos on Facebook.

So. Okay. Half the the time when I’m writing about stuff like this, it’s because I am simply left agog at how much time and effort is spent managing political insanity — the hours and hours policy makers and front line troops waste on the fringes.

We know candidates like this emerge regularly, whether its a professional wrestler running for mayor of Ringgold or the child of a long-serving Atlanta legislator trying to keep up the family business. It’s a simple-enough thing to plug an address into the Secretary of State’s “My Voter” page to see what district someone is in. Why doesn’t a clerk just run the address before qualification, to avoid all of these shenanigans?

I think Loren Collins has part of the answer.

“The Secretary of State has no duty to independently investigate or confirm a candidate’s qualifying status,” he wrote. “That’s why there’s an entire procedure for individuals to file legal challenges, and for the Administrative Court to review them and make a recommendation to the SoS.

“The argument that the SoS *does* have such a duty is something that’s been raised in, of all places, a bunch of silly Birther lawsuits challenging President Obama’s election,” Collins, a noted expert on Birther idiocy, added. “And many of those lawsuits all around the country have been dismissed simply because the Secretary of State’s job doesn’t include investigating the eligibility of all candidates who claim to be eligible.”

If the Secretary of State’s office or local election officials had the power to deny ballot access on the spot, one can see the short step to abuses that might create. Suddenly, one might find the My Voter database filled with garbage, or politically-appointed clerks running interference at the gate.

The legal presumption of eligibility preserves the power of the courts to protect the ballot. It also keeps the Secretary of State’s office from being sued regularly, which is probably why they’re not eager to change anything. It’s up to other candidates, or the public, to offer residency challenges.

Events like this do serve a purpose. They get people talking about their own representatives. Do your elected legislators live where they say they live? My thread on the Moore case elicited all sorts of rumors about who might be living in an apartment in Atlanta while maintaining a “residence” in some other part of the world.

The requirement to live where you serve did not come from nothing. It’s part of America’s rebellion against the landed nobility of the 18th century issuing writ from afar over people they didn’t know and couldn’t see. It is at once progressive and libertarian, a statement of freedom from distant elites. And it can only be preserved by public vigilance.

Update: Initial media reports indicated that an unnamed competitor offered the residency challenge. That’s incorrect.

The Secretary of State’s office itself made the residency challenge, which rather belies my earlier assumptions about whether the office would involve itself in ballot issues. Staff assured me that the challenge arose simply because the address is outside of the district, and has nothing at all whatsoever to do with the fact that Moore had run to unseat the secretary a few years ago.

It’s also different than challenges related to presidential campaigns, in which the Secretary of State has more of a caretaker roll for ballot access.

Go figure.

9 comments

  1. I got curious about Angela’s address, so I thought I’d check her Personal Financial Disclosure. Alas, despite all those runs for office, she hasn’t filed one since 2006.

    For which the ethics commission has fined her exactly NOTHING in late fees.

  2. NoTeabagging says:

    Thanks George for another amazing expose. Perhaps the answer to “Why doesn’t a clerk just run the address before qualification, to avoid all of these shenanigans?” means they would have to verify all the other constitutional qualifications,i.e. “card” the candidates for proof of age, and verifying one year of residency. That is just too much to ask without their heads exploding. SOS say Let it Go. Go waste our courts that is.

    • George Chidi says:

      The homestead exemption and voter registration are the gold standard. Claiming a residence somewhere other than your tax-abated home would be a fraud, as would registering to vote somewhere you do not live. If you’ve moved and haven’t changed your voter address and homestead exemption by the time you’re qualifying, then either the circumstances are extraordinary, or you’re committing fraud.

      • drjay says:

        but even then, the judge (or elections board) will often let it slide and let the voters decide…as in when ronnie few ran for mayor in augusta even though his homestead was in columbia county, but stated he was living in a condo in augusta and just “had not gotten around to changing it”…or in sava’h when ruel joyner was disqualified by the city clerk and then reinstated by a judge in a race for city council, while claiming to live in a loft over his store while his family lived out on the islands…of course the most fun one in sav’h was a guy running for st senate a few years back who showed up for his hearing in a car with a south carolina tag to deny that he actually lived in hilton head…

        • Or how about State Rep Roger Williams of Dalton. After the 2004 court redistricting, he qualified to run in a district saying his home address had changed. Ok well that’s all fine and good, but his new address was outside of the district (from prior map) that he currently represented. Meaning at the very least he was supposed to resign his existing seat. But a judge just went oh this is too confusing let the voters decide.

          Not to defend Ms. Angela, but in my personal experience I find that the voters get to decide a lot more often when it’s a white candidate.

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