Residency Requirements and the Market for Politicians

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The other day Jake flagged the possibility that the Critz-Altmire petition fight would put the final nail in the coffin of PA’s unconstitutional residency requirement for petition circulators. PoliticsPA takes a look at this today.

While I’d be perfectly happy to see Mr. Altmire get thrown off the ballot for his sloppiness, the end of the residency requirement would be a much happier outcome.

The fact is that nowhere in the Constitution does it require a candidate to live in the district s/he wants to represent, so there’s no reason the petition circulator should have to live there either.

Most people feel that their representative should be someone who has lived in their community for a long time, has deep community ties, strong personal attributes, etc. It’s so politically damaging not to live in the district that it might as well be illegal, but I think that’s too bad.

Politics would be better if it was less tribal and more transactional. My view is that the criteria listed above are totally irrelevant to what’s actually important for somebody to be an effective representative of a district in Congress. I think the political system would function better if voters viewed Congressional elections as a chance to select the scrappiest, most cutthroat lobbyist on the market.

Your district sent a certain amount of federal tax dollars to Washington, and the representative’s job is to bring back as much as possible, or more, in financing for local projects or whatever else people want. It shouldn’t matter whether she’s lived there, it should matter whether she can deliver the stuff.

The pitch would sound something like “I got District X 150% of what they sent to Washington every year for the entire 6 years I was their representative, and I’ll do the same thing for the people of this district.”

Obviously we’re a long way off from a national market for political representation, but anything that gets us closer is a step in the right direction.

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