Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
When I saw the headline of this story in the Des Moines Register, "Election watchdog calls residency law out of date," I have to admit that at first I thought they were talking about sex offenders. Iowa, after all, has strict residency restrictions on sex offenders. But it turns out the story is about where county supervisors have to live.
There's this pesky requirement that county supervisors are supposed to live in the district that they represent. That became a problem for Polk County Supervisor John Mauro in 2002, when the lines of his district were redrawn. Suddenly his house was outside the boundaries.
Mauro has since claimed a second house within the district as his residence, and now says his sister's house, which must be in the district (the story doesn't say) is his legal residence. His reelection opponent says this is all a bunch of hooey and that Mauro shouldn't get away with it.
Charles Smithson, executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, seems sympathetic to Mauro, saying that the 132-year-old state residency law is too vague.
It doesn't seem all that hard to figure out to me. This happens to legislators at all levels of government after every redistricting cycle. Many of them are forced to run in unaccustomed precincts, while others pack up and move to be sufficiently close to their beloved constituents. But if you're the supervisor or representative from an area, why shouldn't you be required to live in that area?
By the way, note the amateur hour caption on the photo (wonder if it got in the paper this way): "Please write a cutline that takes something from the story and ties it to the photo of John Mauro. Thank you very much."
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.