I relearned an interesting aspect of election rules in the last month. You don’t have to live in a Congressional district to be elected for that district.
This has come to light in connection with the possible redistricting in Pennsylvania because of efforts to correct gerrymandering.
Anyone who watches only a little television is quite aware that Connor Lamb is running against Rick Saccone in a special election on March 13 for a seat as U.S. Congressman in the 18th District.
The reason you can’t escape the political advertising is that a boatload of special interest groups are dumping money behind both sides, although Saccone may have the dubious distinction of attracting more “dark” money.
Making the whole situation even juicier is that they are running to fill the office after Republican Tim Murphy, a staunch anti-abortionist, resigned in 2017 amid reports that he asked a woman who is not his wife to get an abortion when she thought she was pregnant.
In another twist, the woman who was asked to get an abortion announced in the last couple of weeks that she also is running for Congress. What district she is going to run in doesn’t really matter because as long as you live in Pennsylvania, you can run anywhere in Pennsylvania for Congress.
Thanks to a new map of Congressional districts, it’s not clear who lives in what district; but none of that matters.
The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) gives this guidance about requirements, and there are only three. Each representative must: (1) be at least twenty-five years old; (2) have been a citizen of the United States for the past seven years; and (3) be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state he represents.
Members are not required to live in the districts they represent after they are elected;but as a matter of tradition, they usually at least have an official residence in that district.
With some candidates now living in different districts throughout the state, some are considering changes in which seats they will seek. Because the special election is so soon, Lamb and Saccone had to make some quick decisions.
Getting back to all of the money being plowed into Pennsylvania for that seat and others in the coming primary in May, it is likely to get worse.
The culprit is a Supreme Court decision in 2010 saying the First Amendment gives corporations, just like individuals, a right to spend their own money on political ads for federal candidates.
The Supremes overturned a century-old restriction on corporations using their money to sway federal elections and ruled that companies have a free-speech right to spend as much as they wish to persuade voters to elect or defeat candidates for Congress and the White House. The government may not stop corporations from spending freely to influence the outcome of federal elections.
Put another way, corporations are people, too — although they don’t have to tell anyone how much they have contributed to a campaign. All sorts of names have been established for such efforts, such as “Friends to Make America Better than Anybody in the Whole Wide World” or the “Committee to Make You Feel Good” or even “Vote for the Other Candidate and You Will Lose Social Security and Medicare.”
Saying corporations are people too, still makes me nervous. Mitt Romney used it for a little while when he was running for President and we know how far that got him.
And another thing. If federal candidates can run for office in Pennsylvania as long as they live in the state. Why can’t we, the real people, then also vote in any of the districts?
We are already seeing their ads.
[Ron Wilshire is a freelance writer living and voting in Clarion County, trying to write a non-political column about politics.]