Nebraska Republicans are taking quick aim at Bob Kerrey in the state’s U.S. Senate race. Their newest target: Kerrey’s quickly-filed voter registration at his sister’s address.
Last week, shortly before launching his campaign for the Senate seat he held for two terms until his retirement in 2000, Kerrey registered to vote in the state once again, at the home of his sister in Omaha. Kerrey had lived for the past 11 years in New York City, as head of the New School from 2001-2010. (Since then, Kerrey has re-registered at a different location. More on that below.)
But now, says state GOP executive director Jordan McGrain, the party will submit a letter Monday to the county election commissioner, saying that Kerrey never intended to live at his sister’s house. So will such a challenge be taken seriously as a legal matter, and get any kind of official attention?
“I do expect it to, and that’s the reason for the challenge,” said McGrain. “This is not a wild goose chase by the NEGOP. We’ve consulted legal experts in the field of election law, and we feel the statutes are very clear on it, and we would not be pursuing it otherwise.”
McGrain also alleged that Kerrey knew he had violated the rules, because shortly afterwards he filed another voter registration for another location, a guest house belonging to area real estate businessman Jay Noddle.
Kerrey’s campaign fired back, saying that the letter would not go anywhere.
“I would describe it as a political stunt, and one that’s kind of — to just cause difficulties or generate a news stories,” campaign manager Paul Johnson told TPM. “There’s no basis for it, but it’s probably good campaign tactics on either part. To me, it’s just an indication that they’re worried about Senator Kerrey running for his old seat, and they’re doing their tricks to mess things up.”
Johnson also explained the change of registration.
“His intent was, he registered at his sister’s house because that’s where he was going to stay temporarily. In the interim, he found a more permanent place, so at the time he filed for Senate he also changed his voter registration per the recommendations of the Douglas County deputy election commissioner.”
But in a follow-up interview, McGrain said that these issues still matter, in light of Kerrey having stayed at the Hilton in Omaha.
“Their contention that he ever intended to stay or be domiciled at his sister’s house was false,” said McGrain. “And our expectation is that there should be some sort of legal process about him completing what essentially amounted to a false voter registration application.”Let me remind you of what Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled in the Charlie White case. According to Rosenberg's ruling, White was not legally registered at his ex-wife's home because he did not intend to permanently reside there. Essentially, Judge Rosenberg deemed White unable to register anywhere at the time he registered at his ex-wife's home, which Indiana's Supreme Court seem to have trouble swallowing when it heard oral arguments in the case on appeal last week. I'm not sure what Nebraska law says concerning voter registration, but clearly Kerrey would not be able to register to vote at either his sister's or the guest house of the real estate businessman under Indiana law as applied by Judge Rosenberg because he doesn't intend to permanently reside at either location as evidenced by his stay in a hotel during his trip back to his former home state.
I would point out that Kerrey clearly is eligible to seek the Senate seat in Nebraska, even though he currently doesn't reside there. Under the U.S. Constitution, Kerrey need only demonstrate that he is an inhabitant of Nebraska by the date of the November general election. According to federal court decisions, a person is an inhabitant of the state if he or she can prove both a physical presence in the state and an intent to habitate within the state. He obviously owns no home in the state currently since he has registered to vote both at his sister's house and a guest house owed by another person in the course of one week. Sen. Richard Lugar is not an inhabitant of Indiana within the meaning of the U.S. Constitution because he hasn't owned a home here in 35 years and has used the address of his former home to obtain a driver's license and register to vote within the state. Like Kerrey, he stays in a hotel when he visits the state.