District 2 school board member Richard McElrath said Thursday he moved out of his longtime home in that district during a period of family turmoil but has been spending nights there for the last couple of months, since he decided to run for re-election.
But McElrath said he and his wife are now living in the District 2 house off Beatties Ford Road, where he's registered to vote.
That qualifies him to continue representing District 2, which covers west and southwest Charlotte, says Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson (see a map of school district zones here). "Residency is where they plan to return when they leave," Dickerson said. McElrath's situation "sounds fine to me," he said.
Don Wright, general counsel for the N.C. Board of Elections, agrees (read a 12-page report on N.C. voter residency requirements here).
|McElrath's District 1 house|
When McElrath ran for school board in 2009, there were rumblings about his having a house outside the district. McElrath said at the time he was fixing up the lake house as a weekend place. No one has ever filed a challenge to McElrath's District 2 residency, Dickerson said.
I visited both homes this week and asked McElrath about his living arrangements as part of the backgrounding we do on candidates for public office. I found no one home at either location, but saw McElrath campaign signs stashed outside and two dogs in a fenced enclosure at the District 1 house.
|Campaign signs at lake house|
Residency questions aren't uncommon in local races. Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell, who was defeated in the Sept. 11 Democratic mayoral primary, told the Observer shortly before the primary that he had moved out of the home in District 2, which he represents, and into a new house in the city's District 4. No one has formally challenged his eligibility to serve out his District 2 term.
In 2003, Vilma Leake faced a challenge from County Commissioner Bill James and other residents about her eligibility to represent District 2 on the school board. Leake, who is now the county commissioner for District 2, owned a home in District 6 and rented an apartment in District 2 at the time. The Mecklenburg Board of Elections held a hearing and ruled in Leake's favor.
McElrath will face Thelma Byers-Bailey, a first-time candidate and resident of Charlotte's Lincoln Heights neighborhood, in the Nov. 5 election.