The biggest issue between the two candidates for the State Senate in the 19th District right now isn’t the fact that Brandon Bell, former Republican and now Independent, received $202,500 in campaign money from Dick Saslaw and the Democrats. The biggest controversy remains whether GOPer Ralph Smith expects people to believe he actually left his 4,000+-square-foot palatial house in Botetourt County and moved into a 617-square-foot, rented cabin in Roanoke County, a cabin that shows no signs of being anybody’s residence.
According to the Code of Virginia, “In order to qualify as a candidate for any office…a person must be qualified to vote for and hold that office.” To qualify as a registered voter in any precinct or district, a person must have both a place of abode and a domicile. “To establish domicile, a person must live in a particular locality with the intention to remain. A place of abode is the physical place where a person dwells.”
This year,we have seen Smith expect up to believe he prefers to live in a rustic cabin that shows no signs of being lived in, but that’s not even the strangest residence switch to cheat the law. In the 22nd Senate District Tom Garrett “reconciled” with his ex-wife and moved back into her house. The guy who wants to take Garrett’s place as Louisa County commonwealth attorney moved into the house Garrett was in before the “reconcilement.” Bill Stanley “moved” in order to oppose Roscoe Reynolds. Ward Armstrong’s move at least is based on family ties with his move into his mother-in-law’s house.
The run on moving vans caused by redistricting is absurd. If the Code of Virginia is meaningless because there is little or no punishment available for someone who cheats or lies about residency requirements, then one of two things needs to happen. Either voters need to make being a scofflaw a reason to reject a candidate, or the Code of Virginia should be changed to reflect the reality that residency requirements are meaningless to people running for office.