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Senator Stuart votes in a county where he does not live

Anita Kumar

For more than two years, State Sen. Richard Stuart (R) has been voting in a county in which he does not live.

State law says Virginians must vote where they reside except in rare cases when a person moves temporarily and is allowed to maintain a previous address for voting until the next general election for federal office but only if he remains in the same congressional district and has notified electon officials at a polling place.

Stuart, elected in 2007, lived in the Montross area of Westmoreland County, but moved to Stafford County soon after he sworn into office in January 2008. Both counties are in his senatorial district.

Voting records obtained by The Washington Post show Stuart voted in Montross in both 2008 and 2009.

Stuart acknowledged in an interview last week that he did not change his voter registration because he voted in Montross for years, and he did not know he had to change his registration. Two days later, after reviewing the statues, Stuart emailed to say he never intended to change his "permanent residence" from Westmoreland, where he still owns a house.

Peter Goldin, a policy analyist with the Virginia State Board of Elections, said the state often reminds residents to update their voter registration when they move but that usually only occurs if they change other information, such as a driver's license first, which state law says they should do within 30 days. Stuart said he did not change his driver's license.

Stuart said he still occasionally stays at his previous home in Montross -- a farm -- because it's closer to his law practice and legislative offices. But he said he, his wife and children live in Stafford. The family purchased a 3,000-square-foot house the family purchased for $455,000 in February 2008, according to property records. Stuart represents the 28th district, comprised of all or parts of eights counties in the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, northern Piedmont and Fredericksburg.

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R) represents Westmoreland and Stafford, but the two counties are represented by different state House members -- Del. Albert Pollard (D) in Westmoreland and Speaker Bill Howell (R) in Stafford -- county boards of supervisors, school boards and other local elected officials.

Pollard said he spoke to Stuart about the voting issue last year, though Stuart did not indicate whether he would change his registration.

"I enjoy working with Richard,'' Pollard said. "But I can't lie to you. I had a specific conversation with him last summer where I talked to him about...voting where you lived. He expressed some bafflement which was surprising to me. Most local elected officials understand residency in legal terms."

Stuart has worked as a commonwealth's attorney and county attorney. He is now in private practice as well as serves as the attorney for the Westmoreland County School Board.

Generally, those suspected of violating this type of election law are prosecuted by the commonwealth's attorney's office, Goldin said. Violators who are found guilty face a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by $2,500 fine and 12 months in jail. Westmoreland Commonwealth's Attorney Dean Jefferson Atkins did not return a call for comment this week.

By Anita Kumar  | October 20, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Attorney General's Race, 2009 Governor's Race, 2009 Lieutenant Governor's Race, Anita Kumar, Election 2009, House of Delegates, State Senate  
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Comments

Come on, WaPo...

Sen. Stuart does not currently, nor has he ever, represented any part of the Middle Peninsula. I realize that to you NoVa folks anything south of the Occoquan is "fly-over country."

Additionally, the concept poorly explained here is domicile and its difference from residence, of which a person may have more than one.

It would also be helpful to note that the often-unavailable Commonwealth's Attorney for Westmoreland County, Dean Atkins, was elevated to his position from that of Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney upon Sen. Stuart's resignation as Westmoreland County Commonwealth's Attorney in May 2005 (after only 17 months on the job). Any investigation of this matter would clearly necessitate appointment of a special prosecutor.

Posted by: NotCatherineCrabill | October 20, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows you can't trust a politician who says, "But I cannot lie to you." Albert Pollard lost his bid for the Senate seat three years ago and he's still crying about it.

Posted by: agrayhairedoldlady | October 21, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows you can't trust a politician who says, "But I cannot lie to you." Albert Pollard lost his bid for the Senate seat three years ago and he's still crying about it.

Posted by: agrayhairedoldlady | October 21, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows you can't trust a politician who says, "But I cannot lie to you." Albert Pollard lost his bid for the Senate seat three years ago and he's still crying about it.

Posted by: agrayhairedoldlady | October 21, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

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