Delegate Tony McConkey's Official Blog

Maryland Candidate Residency Reconsidered, Sen Helton Loses Challenge

Maybe the requirement of Maryland candidate residency means something after all. After the Clarence Blount decision, cited in the article, in which the court held that Blount’s claim of residency at his office was acceptable, the residency test seemed to mean little. This ruling by the Board of Elections might add some weight again to the requirement.

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Art Helton Loses Residency Ruling

By Bryan P. Sears, Daily Record

Art Helton, a former state senator who is seeking a political comeback in 2014, is in trouble with the authorities after allegedly lying about where he lives.

An administrator for the Maryland State Board of Elections issued a ruling on two challenges to Helton’s residency.

“In my considered judgment, there is substantial reason to believe Mr. Helton has falsely signed legal documents, including a sworn voter registration application in his wife’s name, and that both Mr. and Mrs. Helton have deliberately misled the local board and this forum and have lied under oath with respect to their actual residence,” Judith A. Armold, a designee for the state administrator, wrote in her seven-page ruling dated Tuesday. “For that reason, I recommend that the state board or the state administrator refer the matter of Mr. and Mrs. Helton’s false claims of residence to the state prosecutor for further appropriate action.”

Helton, a Democrat who has announced his intention to run for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Nancy Jacobs, filed a change of address form in 2012 stating that he lived on North Parke Street in Aberdeen.

Armold concluded that the address, which is the office for Helton’s commercial revitalization business, was not his domicile and further stated that she believed he and his wife, Ann Helton, continue to live in a home on Harmony Church Road in Darlington, which is in another legislative district.

Helton responded to a request for an interview with a brief written statement.

“My attorney is out of town until the middle of next week,” Helton wrote Friday afternoon. “I want to talk with him first. I was not expecting this decision at all. The hearing process was like hearsay court. I do expect to appeal this decision where the process is more founded in law.”

Determining residence for candidacy for public office in Maryland is a matter of the candidate’s intent, the state’s highest court has held in a line of cases issued during the last 15 years. In 1998, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Sen. Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore, who maintained a residence in the city even though his wife lived in Baltimore County, where he also sometimes stayed. Most recently, the court held this summer that Anne Arundel County Councilman Arthur Jones still met residency requirements even though he was temporarily incarcerated in South Carolina.

Armold, however, in her opinion, said Helton’s office was essentially a mail drop and that he had no intent to be domiciled at the address.

This is not the first time Helton has lost a challenge on his residence. In 2007, one of the complainants in the most recent case alleged that Helton had improperly changed his voter registration from Harmony Church Road to an Aberdeen address.

In the current challenge, Armold wrote that Helton’s voter registration activity, which includes eight changes of address since 2002, indicates that he has “a sincere belief that he is free to shift his voter registration at will among properties he owns.”

Armold ordered the Harford County Board of Elections to change the addresses on Helton’s and his wife’s voter registrations back to the Harmony Church address and added that any further changes made by either “should be supported by affirmative evidence of a bona fide intent to abandon” their Darlington home and “take up a fixed, permanent residence at a different location.”

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