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Property ownership should not be requirement for holding office

by YES! Staff

editorial

The Forsyth County Board of Elections upheld an important principle last week when its Democratic majority voted to allow Ed Hanes Jr. to remain a candidate in the NC House District 72 race.

The principle at stake is the right of people who commit their lives to their communities to run for office and the right of voters to elect them, regardless of whether the candidate owns property. Anyone who looked at the evidence and heard Hanes’ testimony, with the possible exception of the candidate who filed the challenge, was persuaded that Hanes has lived in the district since 2008, maintains a business in Winston-Salem and is fully committed to moving his family to the city. Even the Republican board member who voted against him said that Hanes was a fine candidate and that he was to be admired for taking care of his father.

When Hanes’ mother died, he and his family made the difficult decision that he would move back in with his father while they temporarily stayed behind in Asheboro. The Hanes family owns a house in Asheboro and a condominium in Durham that they rent out. They’re underwater on both mortgages. It doesn’t make financial sense for them to buy a third home in Winston-Salem while they’re unable to unload real estate in a bad economy.

The writers of the state law governing residency almost certainly didn’t anticipate the foreclosure crisis and they may not have considered the realities of adult children caring for their aging parents.

In truth, none of us are permanent residents. If we do not leave our current communities to take advantage of work opportunities or to respond to family needs, in all likelihood we’ll end up moving into assisted living facilities before we die. Had the board of elections rendered a strict interpretation of the law, they would have precluded all but longstanding property owners from running for office. Who’s to say that next time the residency of a renters won’t be challenged because she hasn’t established sufficient ties to the community?

“When I think about the intent of making the new domicile a permanent domicile, whether it’s in an apartment, whether it’s with your father, the intent, I think, is what we have to look at,” said board chair Linda Sutton, demonstrating a flash of prescience.

While a local board of elections doesn’t have the power to set precedent for the rest of the state, the wise course taken by the board likely averted an appeal that could have ended up in the courts, which might have set a bad precedent. That possibility clearly was not lost on Hanes.

“If you determine what ‘permanent’ means today based on yesterday’s standards, you are, in fact, disenfranchising me in 2012,” Hanes told the board before they reached a decision. “I could be there for the next five years and I would never be able to run for office because this committee today has disenfranchised me because I can’t afford to have three mortgages.” YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration

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