Barbara Bachmeier is facing a problem that it’s unlikely many political candidates have had to face. How does she prove that, while she had no fixed address (she was homeless), she was living in the district she’s seeking to serve in the State House?
A Republican vying to represent Alaska’s House District 13, Bachmeier recently received notice that she does not meet the state’s residency requirements for election, and so has been disqualified from the primary. Alaskan law requires that she would have lived in her district since June 1, 2011, the date she filed her candidacy.
Bachmeier is an Army veteran and real estate agent who reportedly suffers from a stress-related disorder. She moved to Muldoon, which is within District 13, last June because the town is located near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, where Bachmeier has access thanks to her veteran status. Bachmeier could not find an apartment complex nearby that allowed animals, so she decided to live in her truck, as she had for a time in Juneau, until she found a home to purchase.
She bought her home in District 13 last August, but while she claims she was living in the district in June and July, she was listed in public records then as a registered voter in Juneau and living at addresses located in other voting districts of Anchorage.
Anchorage law does technically permit the homeless to register to vote based on “where they sleep,” according to the Anchorage Daily News. But Bachmeier claims that it’s more a matter of disenfranchisement than correcting her public records. As homeless people encounter difficulties registering to vote because they cannot prove residency in any one district, so has Bachmeier found it difficult to assert her residency in District 13 for the disputed two months.
“People that are homeless will have trouble establishing residency in the district in which they live,” Bachmeier said. She pointed out that homeless people often do not sleep in the same place, and so likely could not register in one district that way. “If they just keep moving around, where are they registered?” she asked.
Gail Fenumiai, director of Division of Elections for the district, officially yanked Bachmeier’s name from the ballot on July 2 after repeated requests to Bachmeier’s campaign to prove her residency in Anchorage during the disputed months went unanswered. Bachmeier stated that she did follow up with Fenumiai and requested an extension after she had difficulties securing an attorney, but says her request went unanswered. A call to Fenumiai was not immediately returned.
Fenumiai looked into Bachmeier’s candidacy after receiving a complaint from an Anchorage lawyer, Scott Kendall, who filed the complaint on behalf of two registered Alaska voters. Bachmeier, however, insists that her opponent in the primaries, Republican Gabrielle LaDoux, is behind the complaints. LaDoux’ campaign has denied the allegations.
In a phone interview, Kendall stated that in his investigation, he discovered records that stated Bachmeier had owned a condo in Anchorage – but not in District 13 – continuously since 2007, and had filed court filings using that address. During that time, she also owned property in Juneau, where she was registered to vote. Kendall also said that he did not know how his clients had first been alerted to issues with Bachmeier’s residency.
Bachmeier asserts that her campaign is not over. Ballot books are not printed until late July, and so the prospective Republican nominee still has time to appeal Fenumiai’s decision through Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections within the state. Treadwell had not answered Bachmeier’s attempts to contact him, according to Bachmeier.
Even if she does manage to appeal her case, it seems that the bureaucracy of voter registration may still keep Bachmeier, and all other homeless people, from proving residency in their voting districts – something that Bachmeier says she will work to change if she is, in the end, elected.
This post has been updated.