EDITORIAL: Make candidates run where they live

This editorial originally appeared in the Salisbury Post.

The ability for candidates to shop around for their favorite congressional district is bad for the democratic process.

Instead of voters choosing their candidates, the current system allows candidates to choose their voters because the Constitution only requires people to live in the state — not the specific district. So, Republicans who live in deep blue Charlotte can seek election in a rural area anywhere in the state and vice versa.

This is most helpful for incumbents who are running in any one of North Carolina’s newly drawn districts because they have better name recognition than non-incumbents who are doing the same.

In Murphy’s and Adams’ case, they’re seeking re-election to the district numbered the same as the one they currently represent. Bishop and Hudson are running to represent some areas their current district covers. But in more than one case, incumbents are also seeking election to districts that are more favorable to their electoral chances — choosing their voters.

In the case of the 8th District, which covers Rowan County, both candidates live outside of its boundaries. In addition to Bishop, Democrat Scott Huffman lives in Charlotte and filed for the 8th District. That’s problematic because the district stops at the Mecklenburg-Cabarrus line. Otherwise, it includes all or parts of Stanly, Union, Anson, Montgomery and Richmond counties.

Those are fine arguments under the current system, but it’s worth considering the point of congressional district lines if candidates can run wherever they like and because most districts are not expected to be competitive. As drawn today, the 8th District will almost certainly elect a Republican. The two districts that split Charlotte will elect Democrats — meaning that Hudson and Bishop would most likely lose re-election bids in districts where they live.

For every well-qualified candidate outside of the district, there’s at least one who lives in the district. Voters will be best served when candidates are required to run where they live.