State begs to differ with Mahoney on voter address
Mahoney is Registered to Vote at a Barn with an Apartment,"Does it still smell of cow crap ?"
Florida elections officials don't share Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney's opinion that he can be registered to vote at an address different from his homesteaded residence in Palm Beach Gardens.
Mahoney represents congressional District 16. His house is in congressional District 22. While retaining a homestead exemption on the house and declaring it his primary residence, Mahoney is registered to vote at a barn with an apartment that he owns in the rural Caloosa area in
"(W)e don't know how he can declare his legal residence in the homesteaded address and also declare legal residence at the barn for voting purposes," Florida Department of State spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis said today.
The Department of State oversees the state Division of Elections, but neither entity has the jurisdiction to enforce elections law. Allegations of criminal elections violations can be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or local state attorneys for potential prosecution. Civil complaints are handled by the Florida Elections Commission.
While Mahoney's office and the Department of State have traded statutory citations on residency this week, the issue is more than a dry legal question. The race between freshman Mahoney and Republican challenger Tom Rooney is expected to be one of the most competitive congressional contests in the nation this year.
Mahoney's office referred residency questions to Tallahassee elections lawyer Mark Herron, who said Mahoney's arrangement is legal because Florida Statute 97.041 says a person may register to vote if he or she is "a legal resident of the county in which that person seeks to be registered."
"My review of the statute leads me to conclude he is a resident of Palm Beach County; therefore, he's duly qualified and registered to vote at the farmhouse location," Herron said.
"The Department does not agree fully with Mark Herron on this one," Davis said.
Davis cited Florida Statute 101.045, which states: "No person shall be permitted to vote in any election precinct or district other than the one in which the person has his or her legal residence and in which the person is registered."
"Legal residence" is not defined in Florida law.
"However," says a frequently cited 1993 Division of Elections opinion, "this office and Florida courts have consistently construed legal residence to mean a permanent residence, domicile, or permanent abode, rather than a residence that is temporary."
The opinion goes on to say that "legal residence consists of the concurrence of both fact and intention" and that, in corroborating intent, "no single piece of evidence, such as homestead exemption, is decisive."