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A federal suit filed Nov. 20 in Dallas claims that Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney is still legally a resident of Texas and constitutionally ineligible to receive the state’s 32 electoral votes. Cheney registered to vote in Wyoming shortly before being named Gov. George W. Bush’s running mate, but the suit alleges that he has lived in Texas for the last five years and was an inhabitant of the state on Election Day. A former defense secretary under Bush’s father, Cheney moved to Dallas in 1995 when he became the president and chief executive officer of Halliburton Energy Services Inc. William K. Berenson, a Fort Worth sole practitioner who filed the suit on behalf of three Dallas residents, alleges that Cheney suddenly flew to Wyoming on July 20 to switch his voter registration to “give the indication that he is not a Texan.” Changing his voter registration to Wyoming, where he owns a home, did not change his status as an inhabitant of Texas, Berenson contends. The suit seeks to stop Secretary of State Elton Bomer from certifying Texas’ electoral votes for the Bush-Cheney ticket. Jane Dees, spokeswoman for Bomer, declines comment, but a spokeswoman for Cheney says the suit is “completely frivolous.” Berenson, a personal-injury lawyer, brought the action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas only hours after a federal judge in Florida dismissed a similar suit brought by Boca Raton lawyer Lawrence Caplan. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore of Miami held that the suit had to be filed in a district in which one or more of the defendants live. In Jones v. Bush, Berenson alleges that Cheney bought his primary residence in Highland Park, Texas, on Nov. 3, 1995, has lived there since, and continues to claim a homestead exemption on the property. Cheney also filed his federal income tax returns listing himself as a Texas resident and receives his mail in Dallas, the suit alleges. The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for president and vice president, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.” Berenson, who describes himself as “relatively apolitical,” declines to say whether he supports Democrat Al Gore. “That’s not important,” Berenson says. “The issue to me is not about Republicans vs. Democrats or vice versa. It’s about attorneys being the watchdog of constitutional rights.” But Cheney spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss says Berenson’s allegations are groundless and that Cheney’s ties to Wyoming are undisputed. Cheney, who served as a Wyoming congressman, has maintained a residence in Wyoming for the last 25 years and has owned a house in Jackson Hole, Wyo., since 1995, she says. Weiss says Cheney is registered to vote in Wyoming, has a Wyoming driver’s license and is in the process of selling his home in Texas. “He’s clearly now a legal resident of Wyoming. Asserting otherwise is ridiculous,” she adds. RESIDENT OR INHABITANT? Berenson says the 12th Amendment employs the term “inhabitant” rather than resident. “It is a lot easier to be a resident than an inhabitant,” he says. “Cheney owns a second home in Jackson Hole. He doesn’t inhabit it like he does his Highland Park home.” According to the suit, Jackson Hole “is a ski resort with many ‘second homes’ and even ‘third homes’ occasionally used or rented out by wealthy individuals or corporations.” Berenson also alleges that Cheney’s decision to put his $1.3 million Highland Park home on the market doesn’t mean anything. “He doesn’t have to move. He just wants it to seem like he’s moving,” Berenson says. David Dow, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, says the suit raises a legitimate issue but probably will be dismissed. “I think the issues are political questions that will be deemed to not be judiciable in federal court,” he says. Dow says a state court might have jurisdiction in the case. But he adds, “I would be surprised if a state court were to act on the merits.” Neil McCabe, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law, says he finds it “incredible” that Bush and Cheney are seeking to get around a constitutional provision allegedly by simply changing a driver’s license and voter registration. “It shows an attitude toward the Constitution that it’s something to be gotten around… . For so-called strict constructionists, they [Bush and Cheney] seem to be loosely interpreting the Constitution and hoping that the court would do so, too,” McCabe alleges. However, McCabe says he doesn’t know whether a court will take the constitutional provision any more seriously than Bush and Cheney have. The suit is pending before U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater, a Ronald Reagan appointee. Fitzwater denied Berenson’s motion for a temporary restraining order.

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