To clear up a nettlesome legal question, the City Council is considering a proposed charter amendment that would allow candidates who are moved to new council districts by reapportionment to run in either their new or old districts.
The proposal is intended to steer council candidates around a legal roadblock caused by a charter provision requiring candidates to live in a district for a full year before running for the council.
That provision could leave all council candidates ' including incumbents ' whose council districts are changed by the on-going redistricting battle in a legal no man's land for the fall elections.
The residency requirement has hung over the on-going redistricting battle with council members because of questions regarding whether people whose council districts are changed by the new district lines would be able to run in the municipal elections this fall.
Current law and charter provisions on the subject are unclear. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who submitted his redistricting plan to the council in January, says his legal advisers have said that current law would allow candidates to run from their new districts.
Likewise, an opinion from Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Israel, says that there is no legal objection to someone running for the City Council if he has lived there "for so long as the redrawn district has existed."
The council's action, however, would go a step further and allow candidates to run either from their old districts or a new district so long as the candidate lives in the district he plans to represents when his term of office begins.
While the charter amendment could not take effect unless it iapproved by voters in a referendum during the November general election, council members hope that it will help guide the city Board of Supervisors of Elections in establishing a residency policy for council candidates. Council members also plan to insert language into the redistricting plan that would be in line with the intention of the charter amendment.
"The option is no guidance, no decision," said Council President Mary Pat Clarke. "Decisions have to be made in time for the [July 1] filing deadline."
Schmoke's redistricting plan has run into substantial opposition since it went to the council Jan. 28. Members of the council have been told by two voting rights specialists that the plan would not survive a federal court challenge because it dilutes black voting strength.