Three candidates who submitted their names as potential candidates to replace former Attorney General John Swallow had their residency questioned. One had not lived in the state quite long enough and another had lived and worked in Washington, D.C., for several years after taking a position at the White House.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, was serving on the candidate-vetting committee, and he was worried that if one of these candidates had been chosen to replace Swallow it could have led to a lawsuit and caused even more embarrassment to the state.
This experience prompted Weiler to propose legislation to tighten residency laws, which he called “an abyss of ambiguity.” The bill, SB90, unanimously passed the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee Thursday on its way to the full Senate.
“I will tell you right now it is not perfect. I think it’s substantially better than the current law,” Weiler said. “I can’t fix everything today, but I think I can fix what I’ve learned from the experience that I just described.”
Weiler said under the current law the only certain way for someone to forfeit his or her residency is to vote in another state. The new proposal would add other factors for a judge or election official to consider such as age, family situation, where the person works, where the person owns property, if he or she has a mortgage and if the home is listed as a primary residence.
The proposal would retain exemptions currently in place, such as for people serving in the military, attending school, incarcerated, serving in Congress or at the White House.
“But if someone…leaves the state, does his service and then doesn’t come back and takes another job and even a third job then five or 10 years later says ‘I’m still a resident,’ that left me scratching my head a little bit,” Weiler said