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Opening Arguments

Live and learn

I got an email this morning taking me to task for a word I used in yesterday's editorial about the Lugar residency controversy. I wrote that the U.S. Constitution says a senator must be a "resident" of the state one is elected to represent. But the word actually used in the Constitution is "inhabitant." Fair enough -- that was just careless of me. I write about the Constitution a lot, and I should get the words right. But I don't think the substance of my point is changed:

Without a definition offered for “resident,” that pretty much leaves it up to the states, and two different Indiana attorneys general have offered the opinion that there is no requirement to “maintain a house, apartment or any fixed location.” So the fact he sold his Indiana house after winning his first term and has lived in Virginia ever since is moot when it comes to determining his ballot eligibility.

"Resident" and "occupant" mean roughly the same thing, though resident is probably the stronger word since it conveys a greater sense of permanence or at lest long duration. But without a definition in the Constitution, in either case it's still left up to the states, and our officials have had their say.

It's also still true that the residency issue will resonate with some voters and it is "fair to ask the senator how faithfully he can represent the values of a state he hasn't actually lived in for so long."


Tim Zank
Wed, 02/22/2012 - 4:01pm

Situations like this just make me shake my head and mutter wtf. Are we now so devoid of common sense that it actually seems "ok" to most voters that their Senator lives almost 600 miles away? For over 30 flippin' years?


Phil Marx
Fri, 02/24/2012 - 12:55am

Valid point, Tim.  But I think common sense also says this should be an issue for the electoral process to decide, not the legal process.