Law says residency not required to represent a particular district

The new 11th District now covers 17 counties: Avery, Mitchell, Yancey, Madison, Buncombe, McDowell, Polk, Henderson, Transylvania, Jackson, Haywood, Swain, Macon, Clay, Graham, Cherokee and half of Rutherford.

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

If Republican candidate Albert Wiley is elected to the District 11 United States House of Representative Seat, Western North Carolina will be represented by someone living on the coast of North Carolina. Wiley, along with four of the other 19 candidates running to replace Congressman Mark Meadows live outside of District 11. 

Wiley lives in Salter Path, N.C., which is an unincorporated community in Carteret County, an island off the coast of North Carolina and according to the North Carolina Constitution, it is acceptable for him to run for the District 11 seat to represent Western North Carolina in Congress. The state constitution states that representatives must reside within the state they are seeking to represent, and does not stipulate that they have to reside within the district. 

Along with Wiley, one Democratic candidate, Gina Collias, and three Republican candidates, Dillon Gentry, Wayne King, and Joseph Osborne, all live outside of District 11 based on the address they filed with the state board of elections when checking against the representative search tool. 

Prior to the new 2020 Congressional Maps, seven candidates would have lived outside of the district, however, with the redrawing of the maps and adding in Asheville, more candidates now live within District 11. 

The 14 candidates who actually live within District 11 are primarily from the Asheville area, however, a handful of candidates represent the most western portion of the district. Steve Woodsmall, a Democrat, lists a Pisgah Forest address and Republicans Jim Davis and Lynda Bennett are from Macon and Haywood respectively. Green Party Candidate Tamara Zwinak is also from Macon County. 

Representatives living outside of the district they represent isn’t uncommon. Nearly two dozen members in the 435-member House live outside of their congressional districts, according to published reports. This sometimes happens because long-serving members see district lines redrawn and find themselves in a new district, The Washington Post noted.

One argument against a residency requirement centers from the fact that often times, members of Congress spend more time in Washington, DC than in their district, which results in them having a residence in the nation’s capital. 

The debate on Congressional residency requirements has been subject to federal court rulings as California and Colorado both attempted to require representatives to live in their District. The federal court struck down both state’s requirement because the constitution prohibits states from superseding the Constitution. 

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for District 11 will head to the primary on March 3, with the winners from each party will be appearing on the November 2020 ballot.