Is Elizabeth Hanford Dole a qualified registered voter with a permanent residence in North Carolina or is Elizabeth Dole's permanent primary residence at the Watergate in our nation's capital?
The Watergate is much more than the name of a famous hotel where an even more famous burglary took place in the early 70's.
"Watergate is a cooperative apartment complex located in North West Washington, D.C.. The complex includes three apartment buildings (East, West & South), two office buildings, a hotel, and a shopping mall.
The Watergate has been described as a "city within a city." Most apartments are extravagant and have a price tag to match with many two-bedroom units going for well over $2 million. Winston and Winston Real Estate have several listings at 700 New Hampshire Avenue NW offering virtual tours. There are even a few listed that are down the hall from some of the Watergate's most famous residents, Bob and Elizabeth Hanford Dole.
The Doles have been residents of The Watergate since their marriage in 1975. Bob Dole has owned apartment #112 - a first-floor, one-bedroom since before the Republicans burglarized the Watergate Hotel in 1972.
More than a quarter century later, the Doles found themselves neighbors with Monica Lewinsky and her mother during the famous blow job and blue dress scandal. After the Lewinsky duo vacated their apartment, the Doles purchased it to enlarge their living quarters.
For the past 33 years, the Doles have been joined by many of Washington's most famous and infamous residents in calling the Watergate home. Living at The Watergate puts Liddy Dole within minutes of the heart of political and social action in Washington, D.C. This makes me wonder why Dole would ever plan to leave the convenience and excitement of living near the hub of the political world. But, leave it she must.
You see, to be a qualified registered voter in North Carolina and to maintain that status when temporarily out of the state, Dole must not only maintain a residence in North Carolina, but she must intend to come back to the state to live. According to North Carolina election law:
§ 163‑55. Qualifications to vote; exclusion from electoral franchise.
(a) Residence Period for State Elections. - Every person born in the United States, and every person who has been naturalized, and who shall have resided in the State of North Carolina and in the precinct, ward, or other election district in which the person offers to vote for 30 days next preceding an election, shall, if otherwise qualified as prescribed in this Chapter, be qualified to vote in any election held in this State. Removal from one precinct, ward, or other election district to another in this State shall not operate to deprive any person of the right to vote in the precinct, ward, or other election district from which he has removed until 30 days after the person's removal.
§ 163‑57. Residence defined for registration and voting.
All election officials in determining the residence of a person offering to register or vote, shall be governed by the following rules, so far as they may apply:
(1) That place shall be considered the residence of a person in which that person's habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever that person is absent, that person has the intention of returning.
(2) A person shall not be considered to have lost that person's residence if that person leaves home and goes into another state, county, municipality, precinct, ward, or other election district of this State, for temporary purposes only, with the intention of returning.
(3) A person shall not be considered to have gained a residence in any county, municipality, precinct, ward, or other election district of this State, into which that person comes for temporary purposes only, without the intention of making that county, municipality, precinct, ward, or other election district a permanent place of abode.
(8) If a person removes to the District of Columbia or other federal territory to engage in the government service, that person shall not be considered to have lost residence in this State during the period of such service unless that person votes in the place to which the person removed, and the place at which that person resided at the time of that person's removal shall be considered and held to be the place of residence.
(9a) The establishment of a secondary residence by an elected official outside the district of the elected official shall not constitute prima facie evidence of a change of residence.
Measuring intent isn't the easiest task in the world. It would be made much easier if Elizabeth Dole would publicly announce her plans to leave her home of 33 years to move back to North Carolina. We might want to pin Bob down on those plans too.
We don't know whether Elizabeth Dole intends to fulfil the requirements of a qualified registered voter in North Carolina, but here's what we do know:
Elizabeth Hanford Dole lived in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Bob Dole, for 33 years prior to establishing residency for the purpose of running for the Senate in North Carolina.
Elizabeth Dole never gave up her primary residence at The Watergate in Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Dole has never expressed her intent to make North Carolina her primary residence after she leaves political life
Elizabeth Dole does not live in North Carolina when the Senate is not in session.
Elizabeth Dole did not establish a secondary residence in Washington after being elected to public office, but returned to her primary residence in Washington - a residence she never gave up.
I have a call in to the North Carolina State Board of Elections to try and clarify why Elizabeth Dole is allowed to maintain her residency by simply voting in this state without any expressed intent to return to her property in North Carolina to make it her permanent residence after she leaves public life. That call has not been returned.
I don't know anyone who is denying Dole's right to have a secondary residence in Washington, but the fact that it was her primary residence for 33 years prior to her filing to run for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina muddies the waters a bit.
Residency should be determined by more than simply where someone votes. Our election laws clearly state that a person shall not be denied their right to vote because they are away temporarily as long as they intend to return to North Carolina to make it their permanent residence. The problem is the law doesn't outline how we will determine that intent.
We could start with a promise from Elizabeth Hanford Dole that she is going to leave her home of 33 years in Washington, D.C. and move to North Carolina when she loses in November. If North Carolina is truly her primary residence she should express her intent to live here. If she is unwilling or unable to commit to living in North Carolina after her service in the U.S. Senate has ended, then her residency for voting purposes is called into question and her eligibility to run for and serve in the U.S. Senate should be challenged.