Ignoring the State Constitution: What if a Legislator Lives Outside the State?

During the 2015 Legislative Session, Senate Concurrent Resolution 4010 was passed. This resolution later became known as Constitutional Measure 1 on last year’s General Election ballot, which passed with an astounding 86% of the vote.

Measure 1 amended the North Dakota State Constitution in regards to residency requirements for legislators. With its passage, Article IV Section 5 of the Constitution now reads:

"Each individual elected or appointed to the legislative assembly must be, on the day of the election or appointment, a qualified elector in the district from which the member was selected and must have been a resident of the state for one year immediately prior to that election. An individual may not serve in the legislative assembly unless the individual lives in the district from which selected."(Emphasis Added)

It’s pretty self-explanatory to me. You either live in the district to which you were elected or you don’t qualify to serve there.

Allegedly this wasn’t a major problem previous to SCR 4010. However, it was alleged that Democratic Rep. Corey Mock lived outside of his district (District 42) for years before running to fill a vacancy in the district to which he had moved (District 17). That vacancy had been created by the retirement of Eliot Glassheim, who was later the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate versus Republican Incumbent John Hoeven last November.

Aside from Rep. Mock, there were also whispers that District 2 Republican Rep. Robert Skarphol had been living outside of his district in Arizona. Skarphol has since retired.

While Measure 1 may not have addressed a major problem, I think the voters of North Dakota sent a message when 86% of them approved of it.

Unfortunately, it appears that passage of Measure 1 means little or nothing to some people. Or, at best, it’s somehow misunderstood. I am now aware of a current legislator who is considering plans of not only moving outside their district, but outside the state altogether.

Allegedly, they have been told by Legislative Council that as long as they maintain a residence and mailing address in the district that they would be permitted to live out of state and still serve in the legislature. A baffling interpretation for sure.

Such an idea makes me wonder what part of this is difficult to understand? " An individual may not serve in the legislative assembly unless the individual lives in the district from which selected."

Yes, the voters were loud and clear last November. If legislators are going to be elected and serve, then the voters want them living amongst them, not in some other district and especially not in some other state.

Those whose circumstances change – causing them to move – should honor their oath of office, the wish of the voters, and resign their position to free it up for someone who actually lives in the district that they are supposed to serve in.

Sources:
1. http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/64-2015/documents/15-3001-07000.pdf
2. http://www.legis.nd.gov/constit/a04.pdf
3. http://results.sos.nd.gov/resultsSW.aspx?text=BQ&type=SW&map=CTY
4. https://www.sayanythingblog.com/entry/measures-will-north-dakotas-statewide-ballot-november/

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About T. Arthur Mason 295 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.