Here’s why a Washington state Republican is on the ballot in Kansas’ U.S. Senate primary

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

A collection of "I voted" stickers is pictured at the Douglas County Courthouse in this file photo from Nov. 3, 2016.

When Republican voters in Kansas began opening their advance ballots last week, many noticed a candidate in the list of choices for U.S. Senate and wondered whether it was a mistake.

John L. Berman appears at the bottom of a list of 11 candidates for the seat and is listed as a resident not of Kansas, but of Richland, Wash. Because of a distinction written into the U.S. Constitution, though, Berman’s candidacy, even as an out-of-state resident, is perfectly legal.

The writers of the Constitution spent an entire day in 1787 arguing about the differences implied by requiring that a candidate for office be a “resident” of the state he seeks to represent versus an “inhabitant” of that state.

Ultimately, they went with the latter with the hopes it wouldn’t disenfranchise possible candidates who are away from their home states for a lengthy period of time — either on public or private business — from running for office, according to an analysis from the Florida State University Law Review.

That distinction is what allows Berman to run as a nonresident for a Kansas U.S. Senate seat over 230 years later, according to Katie Koupal, a spokesperson for Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab.

Qualifications to run for the Senate and House of Representatives are relatively simple, and, because they are explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, states do not have the power to change them, Koupal said. As such, the only qualifications Berman needs are to be over 30, a U.S. citizen for nine years and to inhabit the state he would represent if elected.

According to Ballotpedia, which tracks candidates in elections across the nation, Berman is also registered for the Republican Senate primary in Minnesota, which is scheduled one week after Kansas’ Aug. 4 primary.

If Berman were to theoretically win the primary and the Nov. 3 general election, he would need to establish only a residence in Kansas to be seated as a senator, according to a legal analysis performed by Schwab’s office, Koupal said.

Federal offices are the only races in Kansas that a nonresident candidate like Berman would qualify for, Koupal said.

“Berman cannot vote in Kansas and he could not run for state office,” she said in an email.

Koupal also said the office had received several inquiries, in addition to the Journal-World’s, about Berman’s candidacy.

Berman acknowledged a request for comment emailed to his campaign site, but wasn’t immediately available to speak on Tuesday. According to his campaign website, Berman is seeking the Kansas Senate seat on the platform of relocating some federal services, including a new, centrally located facility for Congress, to the Midwest.


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