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Greg Chaimov: Hopefully, Supreme Court decision in governor's race won't make it harder for election officials

Soon, the Oregon Supreme Court will decide whether Secretary of State Shemia Fagan was right that a certain erstwhile New Yorker hasn't been a "resident within" Oregon long enough to run for governor.

The candidate claims Fagan's decision was "political" and like voter-suppression laws that Southern states recently adopted. It wasn't. The secretary of state made the same kind of decision election officials make all the time.

It's not my purpose to suggest to the Supreme Court whether that certain candidate has lived here long enough. But it's not fair to claim that Fagan has done something nefarious when the candidate didn't provide the proof of residency candidates usually do.

There are north of a thousand public offices in Oregon for which people can run, and each of those offices requires a candidate to be a resident within the jurisdiction. Most are school district seats, for which you need to have been a resident for a year — not, as for governor, three years. In most cases, a county clerk protects voters from voting on unqualified candidates by deciding up front whether a candidate has lived in the district long enough.

Unless we were to change to a system in which we can vote for anyone regardless of where they live or in which a candidate only has to say, "Trust me; I'm from here," election officials have to have a way to evaluate a candidate's claim to be a resident for the required time.Greg Chaimov

The evidence usually consists of looking at how a candidate behaved when exercising a right or obtaining a privilege available only to residents of a particular place. You have to be a resident to vote. Did the candidate vote where the candidate wants to run or someplace else? You usually have to be a resident to get a driver license. From where did the candidate get a license? You usually have to live in a school district to educate your kids there. Where did the candidate send their kids to school?

When a candidate hasn't been registered to vote or obtained a license where the candidate wants to run, the election official will have a very hard time concluding the candidate qualifies.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court's decision in the governor's race won't make it harder for election officials to determine which candidates have been residents long enough and which haven't. That's only fair to candidates who really are residents. And to voters.

Milwaukie resident Greg Chaimov is a retired attorney, a former city councilor and a current member of the Clackamas Community College Board.


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