In conflicting rulings over the residency requirements of candidates for the state Legislature, State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed is off the ballot in the 5th Senate District Democratic primary election, but state Rep. Sylvester Taylor is still on the ballot in the 75th House District Democratic race.
Neither candidate lives in the district they seek to represent, after redistricting changed the boundaries earlier this year.
State Sen. Robin Wright-Jones sued Nasheed in the St. Louis Circuit Court, and state Rep. Rochelle Walton Gray sued Taylor in St. Louis County.
Both plaintiffs are represented by St. Louis attorney Elbert A. Walton Jr., of Metro Law Firm, who is also Gray’s father.
On Wednesday, Judge Joan Moriarty found for Wright-Jones in an eight-page judgment. Judge Steven Goldman issued a one-paragraph judgment in Taylor’s favor on Tuesday.
Walton was not aware of Goldman’s decision, but he said he would appeal to the state Supreme Court if the judge ruled against his client.
“It’s going to be left up to the Supreme Court to decide whether a person can run where they don’t reside. That’s what it boils down,” he said.
Nasheed’s lawyer, Dave Roland, said he would appeal Moriarty’s judgment and try to get the two cases consolidated on appeal.
“If Judge Moriarty’s decision ends up becoming the law of the state, it really will create massive turmoil and chaos in this election cycle,” Roland, of the Freedom Center of Missouri, said.
The cases involve the state constitution’s residency requirements.
Article III, Section 6, of the Missouri Constitution says a candidate for state Senate must be “a resident of the district which he is chosen to represent for one year, if such district shall have been so long established, and if not, then of the district or districts from which the same shall have been taken.”
Article III, Section 4, which governs candidates for the state House, contains similar language.
Moriarty concluded the phrase “then of the district or districts from which the same shall have been taken” could not be used to allow Nasheed, who lives in the 4th Senate District, to run as a candidate in the 5th District just because part of the 4th District was reapportioned into the 5th District.
“To construe Article III, Section 6 in such a manner would lead to absurd results where a candidate could run in any number of districts, which are in no way associated with his or her residence, and would promote electoral district shopping,” she wrote. “The Court does not believe this was the intent of the legislature in enacting Article III, Section 6 with its residency requirement.”
Moriarty’s decision goes against 60 years of understanding, Roland said.
“Up until this year there’s never been a serious dispute that [the constitutional provision] allows a candidate whose old district was chopped up into new districts … the option of choosing which district to run in,” he said.
In the county case, Goldman, who based his decision on stipulated facts, said: “From these facts the Court finds that contestee Sylvester Taylor II resided in the County and District from which portions were used to create a new district, the 75th. Contestee has not resided within the boundaries that make up the 75th. Const. Art. III, Section 4 does not so require.”
Taylor’s lawyer, Mary Elizabeth Dorsey, of Ahlheim & Dorsey in St. Charles, said she argued that Taylor qualified under the exceptions provision.
When redistricting maps are complete less than a year before an election, an exception to the one-year residency requirement comes into play, she said.
The cases are Wright-Jones v. Nasheed, 1222-CC01969, and Gray v. Taylor, 12SL-CC01551.