The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.
January 2017: Recently introduced state legislation would relax voter registration rules, allowing California legislative candidates to live far outside the district they seek to represent.
The change would let candidates live in one place in the state and register to vote and seek office elsewhere – as long as they “hold property, whether by lease or by title” in the district.
The proposed change, if it had been in effect in 2008, could have spared the political career of former state Sen. Rod Wright, who resigned in September 2014 after a Los Angeles County judge upheld his conviction for lying about where he lived. Wright is barred from running for future political office.
The author of Senate Bill 163, state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, represents Wright’s former district.
Bradford’s bill would expand the definition of domicile for voting purposes to include a place “in which the person has legal tenancy.” The bill defines legal tenancy as “a person’s right to possess or hold property, whether by lease or by title.”
Under California law, people only can register to vote at their “domicile” – a fixed address where the occupant, whenever he or she is away, has the “intention of returning.”
The requirement often comes into play following the once-a-decade redrawing of political lines, as candidates look for new opportunities.
Criminal charges are rare, with Wright’s case the main exception.
Los Angeles prosecutors alleged that the veteran lawmaker was registered to vote at a home he owned in Inglewood, within the then-25th Senate District, but actually lived in Baldwin Hills, outside the district, when he ran in 2008.
Prosecutors presented testimony from a tenant of Wright’s Inglewood home that she never saw him fix a meal or stay overnight. His Baldwin Hills neighbors, meanwhile, testified that they often saw him there. Wright’s defense attorney countered that the lawmaker considered the Inglewood address as his domicile.
A jury convicted Wright in early 2014 on eight felony counts – two counts of perjury, one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy and five counts of fraudulent voting in elections in 2008 and 2009. He lost his appeal of the conviction last year.
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Deadline is March 8.
Goodbye, every fragment of honor
1889: As predictable as the swallows coming back to Capistrano or winter snow in the Sierra was The Sacramento Bee’s annual diatribe when the legislative session came to an end. The one that followed the 28th session’s end was particularly acerbic:
It is usually the custom to speak of each succeeding session as the worst. But without exaggeration whatever, with only the plainest of plain truth, it is safe to say that the session just closed has displayed more brazen rascality, more shameless disregard of every shred of principle, more outright barter of every remaining fragment of honor, more reckless prostitution of female clerks, more open and notorious adultery on the part of members, than have ever before disgraced a legislature. The honest members were like angels’ visits, few and far between.
Rex Babin cartoon from Sept. 30, 2011. Governor Jerry Brown and his dog Sutter sign bills.