PermaLink When do you stop living somewhere?04/19/2006 04:32 PM

I've been following the election in New Orleans with some interest, particularly the part about how "disenfranchising" it is.  When are you considered not to be living somewhere anymore?

Most states have fairly well-articulated laws about what qualifies you as a resident or not.  Here in Maryland, for example, you're expected to change your driver's license over from whatever state you're from to Maryland within 30 days of your residence here.  Other places have differing durations depending on what you're trying to do, whether it's vote, pay taxes, qualify for resident tuition rates at public colleges, get divorced, whatever.

So this idea that thousands of former residents of New Orleans are being "disenfranchised" because New Orleans hasn't gone to every place these people moved after Hurricane Katrina to seek voters out and make it possible for them to vote where they now reside puzzles me.

Let me lay it out, folks:  you have moved.  You are no longer residents of the City of New Orleans.  You are now residents of Texas, or Alabama, or New York, or Illinois, or Arkansas.  Sure, you may not have wanted to move, you may have wanted to move back to New Orleans by now, but for whatever reason, you do not live in New Orleans any longer.  You probably get your mail, pay bills, maybe have a new job, a new car, a new driver's license, all in your new location.  Your kids go to school in Houston or Birmingham or Charlotte or Tampa or Chicago.

This means you no longer have a say in what takes place in your former city, any more than I can vote for the mayor of Buffalo, New York.

Sorry, but that's how the law works.  Sure, you can vote absentee, can't you?  And if you can, why don't you?  The idea that the government should have to set up polling places where you happen to be is silly.  If you think you're entitled to vote in New Orleans, obtain an absentee ballot and use it, just as you could have had you happened to have been out of town on Election Day when you still lived in New Orleans.

Or better still, vote where you are!  You've been there long enough, go down and change your voter registration and vote where you are, where daily politics will much more directly affect you.  If the circumstances permit you to return to New Orleans some day, great.  But for now, deal with the world as it is, not as you want it to be.

As my late Uncle Charlie used to say, "people in Hell want icewater."
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