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Attorney general voted in Boone County in Aug. 8 special election

Attorney general voted in Boone County in Aug. 8 special election

August 15th, 2017 by Bob Watson in Missouri News
Missouri Attorney General Joshua Hawley

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley voted in last week's special election, the Boone County Clerk's office told the News Tribune this weekend.

Hawley's action appears to violate a state law, which says: "The attorney general shall reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the supreme court building."

The Missouri Constitution defines the seat of government as Jefferson City.

The attorney general's office did not provide a new comment for this article, but directed a reporter to Hawley's comments in a Feb. 10 story by St. Louis Public Radio.

In February, Hawley said he and his legal team were convinced he was not breaking any laws by remaining in his Boone County home, which "is 17 minutes away'' from his office.

At the time, he accused Democrats of conducting "a sideshow issue'' to distract from more important matters.

He said in February he was renting a two-bedroom apartment in Jefferson City's limits and planned to use it when he is working late — but noted the quarters are large enough that his wife and two children also can stay there.

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"I will stay there as needed to make it a true personal residence (for legal purposes)," Hawley said, emphasizing that his primary home will remain in Columbia.

Of Missouri's six statewide elected officeholders, only the attorney general is mandated by law to reside inside Jefferson City's corporate limits.

A state law defining voters notes: "Any person who is qualified to vote shall be entitled to register in the jurisdiction within which he or she resides."

Among several meanings, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "resides" as "to dwell permanently or continuously: occupy a place as one's legal domicile."

The Cambridge Dictionary says it means "to live in a place."

Previous attorneys general had a home or apartment in Jefferson City and voted from that local address — including Chris Koster, who also maintained a place in the St. Louis area.

Boone County online records show Hawley is registered to vote from a Columbia address on East Highway 163, which runs from U.S. 63 west — between Ashland and Columbia — to Pierpont, then turns north to go past Rock Bridge State Park and into Columbia.

That area in Boone County is part of the 50th House District, where Republican Sara Walsh won the special election to finish former Rep. Caleb Jones' term.

Boone County also had a countywide road tax issue on last week's ballot.

When asked after last week's elections if Hawley had voted from the Columbia address, an official with the Boone County Clerk's office said in an email: "The precinct check-in indicate(s) that Mr. Hawley did cast a ballot on election day."

The 50th House District also includes parts of Cole, Moniteau and Cooper counties — the Cole County part does not include any section inside Jefferson City's corporate limits.