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Burks: Hawley is a registered Boone County voter

Burks: Hawley is a registered Boone County voter

September 21st, 2017 by Bob Watson in Local News

FILE - In this June 21, 2017 file photo, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley speaks at a news conference in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jim Salter, File)

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's registration and voting from a Boone County address "is proper and does not appear to violate Missouri election law," Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks told Hawley in a letter Wednesday.

With that letter, Burks closed his investigation into Hawley's voting in the Aug. 8 special election.

"The Boone County Clerk's official finding confirms what we have said all along: Josh Hawley is properly registered to vote at his permanent home despite the Democrat party attacks to the contrary," Scott Paradise, with Hawley's campaign organization, said in a statement.

But that statement may be a sore spot for some — Republicans as well as Democrats — who have told the News Tribune they think Hawley continues to violate a state law that affects only the attorney general; it states, "the attorney general shall reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the supreme court building."

Missouri's Constitution defines the seat of government as Jefferson City.

Hawley's voting address is on Missouri 163, between Ashland and Columbia and about 20 miles north of Jefferson City.

In a letter to Burks, Hawley's attorney — Peter Patterson of the Cooper & Kirk law firm in Washington, D.C. — wrote: "Earlier this year, in a nod to the tradition of Attorneys General also residing in Jefferson City, Mr. Hawley rented an apartment within the city limits of Jefferson City. He uses that apartment as a residence in addition to his family home."

Previous attorneys general have maintained homes or apartments in Jefferson City and voted from those addresses.

Hawley's immediate predecessor, Chris Koster, kept a home in St. Louis but had an apartment on McCarty Street and voted at the Miller Performing Arts Center precinct.

"Missouri law provides that a voter may reside in multiple places, but may be registered to vote in one place only," Patterson told Burks.

Patterson told the News Tribune both Missouri's Constitution and statutes "require that an individual must register to vote in the 'jurisdiction' or 'political subdivision' in which he is a 'resident.'"

He added: "The Missouri Supreme Court has squarely held — for decades — that 'residence' for purposes of voter qualifications is subject to the common law tests normally invoked when determining domicile an actual residence, coupled with the intention to remain either permanently or for an indefinite time."

Patterson told Burks: "The law directs that a Missouri voter must register to vote at the site of his permanent home — that is, the place where he resides and intends to return permanently. For Mr. Hawley, that is his family home in Boone County.

"While he has an apartment in Jefferson City, Mr. Hawley is not from there and does not intend to make Jefferson City his permanent home."

In his email, Paradise said Patterson's letter to Burks was "regarding the frivolous attack on Josh Hawley's residency."

Paradise told the News Tribune, because state law allows people to have multiple residences, Hawley's Jefferson City apartment meets the law's residency requirement for the attorney general, even as Hawley continues to live in Boone County when he's not in Jefferson City, and vote from his long-time Boone County home.

In January, Deputy Attorney General Michael Martinich-Sauter provided Hawley with a legal analysis contending Hawley is complying with state law because his home is within "ordinary commuting distance" of Jefferson City.

The analysis compared Hawley's residency status to state employees who commute to the Capitol Complex from other areas of Jefferson City or Cole County.

But, those who question Hawley's compliance with the attorney general's residency requirement note, state law does not dictate where most state employees live.

In telling Hawley the Boone County elections investigation is closed, Burks wrote: "According to the Boone County Assessor, you possess real property at the address listed in your voter registration file.

"Additionally, I have found no evidence that you have transferred your voter registration to a different election jurisdiction other than Boone County."