Polk County’s auditor says he’ll issue a decision soon after hearing testimony over a challenge to the address Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver listed on his voter registration — a decision that could nullify Whitver’s election victory last month.
Grimes resident Ann Gale filed the challenge. “I believe that Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and independent voters deserve a senator who cares enough about the district to live in it,” Gale said during today’s hearing.
Whitver ran in a newly-drawn district that includes a condo he owns in Grimes and he listed that address on his voter registration in August. Whitver also cancelled the homestead exemption on his home in Ankeny, which is not in the new senate district. Shayla McCormally, an attorney for Gale, told the county auditor Whitver still lists his Ankeny address for his businesses and utility bills for the Grimes condo show little water was used there this fall.
“He did change the address on both his driver’s license and his voter registration solely for his election needs, but he didn’t have the intent to live or reside at the address provided,” McCormally said.
Charlie Smithson, an attorney representing Whitver, responded, saying state law permits candidates to establish residency in a legislative district for “an indefinite amount” of time.
“Or indeterminable length of time — a very permissive standard, frankly,” Smithson said.
Smithson presented the county auditor with smart phone tracking data that Smith said shows the condo was Whitver’s “primary nighttime residence” in the weeks leading up to the election.
“His spouse and three children still live in Ankeny. That’s an issue for Jack Whitver and his spouse,” Smithson said. “That is not an issue for the government to step in and say: ‘Why did you move and your wife and kids stay somewhere else?'”
Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald concluded the hearing by saying there have been very few challenges to someone’s voter registration in Iowa.
“It’s kind of uncharted territory for me because in the 15 years I’ve been here, we’ve never had one,” Fitzgerald said, “so it’s going to take a little time to make sure we do everything right.”
Fitzgerald’s decision could be appealed to district court.