Editorial: Make candidates run where they live

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 6, 2022

The ability for candidates to shop around for their favorite congressional district is bad for the democratic process.

Instead of voters choosing their candidates, the current system allows candidates to choose their voters because the Constitution only requires people to live in the state — not the specific district. So, Republicans who live in deep blue Charlotte can seek election in a rural area anywhere in the state and vice versa.

This is most helpful for incumbents who are running in any one of North Carolina’s newly drawn districts because they have better name recognition than non-incumbents who are doing the same.

Rep. Greg Murphy is registered to vote at an address in the 1st District and is running for re-election in the 3rd. Rep. Dan Bishop’s address is south of uptown Charlotte — in the 14th District — and he’s running for the 8th. Rep. Richard Hudson is registered to vote at an address in the 12th District and is running two districts from his home — in the 9th. Rep. Alma Adams is registered to vote in the 14th District and running for the 12th.

In Murphy’s and Adams’ case, they’re seeking re-election to the district numbered the same as they one they currently represent. Bishop and Hudson are running to represent some areas their current district covers. But in more than one case, incumbents are also seeking election to districts that are more favorable to their electoral chances — choosing their voters.

In the case of the 8th District, which covers Rowan County, both candidates live outside of its boundaries. In addition to Bishop, Democrat Scott Huffman lives in Charlotte and filed for the 8th District. That’s problematic because the district stops at the Mecklenburg-Cabarrus line. Otherwise, it includes all or parts of Stanly, Union, Anson, Montgomery and Richmond counties.

Bishop — the favorite to win — may make the case his views are closely aligned with that of a majority of voters in the 8th and some of the counties are in his current district. As he’s said in previous campaigns, Huffman may make the case he has close ties to communities in the district.

Those are fine arguments under the current system, but it’s worth considering the point of congressional district lines if candidates can run wherever they like and because most districts are not expected to be competitive. As drawn today, the 8th District will almost certainly elect a Republican. The two districts that split Charlotte will elect Democrats — meaning that Hudson and Bishop would most likely lose re-election bids in districts where they live.

For every well-qualified candidate outside of the district, there’s at least one who lives in the district. Voters will be best served when candidates are required to run where they live.