The application deadline for a seat in the US House of Representatives in Tennessee is next week, but on Monday the state legislature decided to change the rules by introducing a three-year residency requirement. The bill is a blatant attempt to marginalize an underdog candidate backed by President Trump, and it could be unconstitutional.
Morgan Ortagus worked as a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s State Department before moving to Nashville in 2021. After lawmakers drew new political maps this year, Rep. Jim Cooper, the incumbent Democrat in the 5th District, decided to retire from Congress. The race to replace him includes a herd of Republicans, including Ms. Ortagus.
Ms. Ortagus is not originally from Tennessee, but neither are many of her neighbors. The Nashville metro area’s population grew 21% between 2010 and 2020 as newcomers poured into the state with no income tax. Voters can decide if Ms. Ortagus is a carpet digger, and if they care.
But the legislature wants to preemptively limit people’s options by disqualifying anyone who hasn’t lived in Tennessee for three years. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Frank Niceley, is backing another candidate, former House Speaker Beth Harwell, according to NBC. “I will vote for Trump as long as he lives,” he said. “But I don’t want him to come here and tell me who to vote for.”
That’s lazy no matter what you think of Mr. Trump. State lawmakers want to help an insider candidate by barring an outsider from voting. Worse, they do it in the middle of an election campaign, days before the registration deadline. Gov. Bill Lee’s office says he is “still reviewing” the legislation. Tennessee has weak veto power, so the legislature could override it with a simple majority.
A lawsuit from voters in Ms. Ortagus’ camp is likely, and this is where the conspiracy thickens. The US Constitution states that a member of the House of Representatives must be 25 years old, have been a US citizen and resident of the state they represent for seven years. That’s it. States once tried to limit the terms of office of their congressional delegations, but the Supreme Court said no in one case in 1995. US office restrictions against Thornton. “Allowing states to create their own qualifications for Congress,” the majority said, “would undermine the structure envisaged by the Framers.”
Tennessee could answer that Dornton was a 5-4 decision and the court has changed. “Nothing in the Constitution,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote contradictingly, “deprives the people of any state of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on the issue.” If a petition came along, Judge Thomas would suggest the ditching to his peers Dornton?
It’s a fascinating legal question. But what is happening in Tennessee this week is not a scientific case for restoring states’ voting powers. It’s a sleazy example of insiders choosing to keep political posts at the club.
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https://www.wsj.com/articles/tennessees-political-protection-racket-morgan-ortagus-donald-trump-11648587656 Tennessee’s Political Protection Bat – WSJ