Does gubernatorial candidate Bill Luckett reside in Mississippi?

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When it comes to voting, sometimes even really smart people do inexplicable things. That appears to be the case with Bill Luckett of Clarksdale, one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor.

Luckett, a successful attorney and businessman who’s perhaps best known for his partnership with actor Morgan Freeman in a restaurant and nightclub, says he’s lived in Coahoma County, Miss., for more than 60 years, although he has owned homes out of state. His law practice includes work in both Mississippi and Tennessee.

The question arises because Luckett cast a ballot in a Memphis election on Nov. 7, 2006. The Associated Press reported that Luckett registered to vote in Tennessee in 1996 — and pointed out that anyone registering there must sign a statement verifying he lives in the state.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Luckett most recently registered to vote in Coahoma County in 2008, and he is no longer a registered voter in Tennessee.

What makes this so interesting is that the Mississippi Constitution requires candidates for governor to be a resident of the state for five years. This year’s election date is Nov. 8 — five years and one day after Luckett voted in Memphis.

Granted, when Luckett registered and then voted in Memphis, he probably had no idea he’d be running for governor of Mississippi one day. But if, as he maintains, his primary residence has been in Coahoma County for six decades, why bother registering in Tennessee in the first place? It looks more like he lived in Memphis for at least a decade, then switched his primary residence as he considered running for office.

Reports of Luckett’s Tennessee voter registration surfaced just in time for the Mississippi Democratic executive committee to consider whether he was eligible to be on this year’s ballot. The committee, without debate, allowed Luckett into the Aug. 2 primary.

One member said that because no one complained to the committee, there was no need to discuss whether Luckett meets the constitutional requirements to run for governor.

A candidate’s residency is certainly less important in an election than his stand on the issues. But Luckett’s misadventure with the simple act of voter registration certainly raises some question about his credibility. That’s an unfortunate spot for any candidate to be in during an election year. ..

But it boils down to this: If Luckett has been a Mississippian for 60-plus years, why in the world did he sign a statement saying he lived in Tennessee. …