Amherst ‘homestead’ alone will not disqualify Hinds from running for re-election

  • While state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, declared a “homestead” in Amherst, which is outside of his district, that declaration alone would not disqualify him from running for re-election. COURTESY OF THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE

The Berkshire Eagle
Published: 6/10/2021 4:30:23 PM

While Adam Hinds has bought a home outside of the district he represents in the state Senate, his “declaration of homestead” in Amherst would not necessarily disqualify him from seeking re-election.

Hinds said that despite purchasing the $690,000 Amherst home, he and his wife, Alicia Mireles Christoff, an associate professor of English at Amherst College, plan to continue spending the majority of their time at the Pittsfield apartment he has rented for seven years.

Hinds viewed the declaration of homestead “as part of the normal process of purchasing a property,” he said, and did not anticipate any effect on his ability to run for reelection in November 2022 should he choose to do so.

“We just decided that given [Christoff’s] place of work and a new child, buying a place that’s closer to her and closer to Boston was a solution that we found workable,” Hinds said. “We did feel that Amherst would be a place where we could stay midweek, and having a second location as needed was valuable ... to balance our multiple needs.”

A declaration of homestead serves mainly as protection against bankruptcy, according to a member of Hinds’ staff.

In general, individuals determine their residence by registering to vote in a city or town where they reside, a spokesperson for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office said. But, any registered voter in that city or town could challenge the registration if there is reasonable evidence that the registration is not legal.

Were a challenge to be lodged, a board — in the case of Pittsfield, the Office of the Registrar of Voters — would hold a hearing and examine evidence from each side. A declaration of homestead at a different residence may be presented as evidence, but, on its own, the declaration would not determine residence where the homestead is declared, the spokesperson said.

If the board determines that someone is unlawfully registered to vote, the individual would be stricken from the voter list, calling into question the individual’s ability to run for office.

While Hinds is not yet a candidate, candidacies can also be challenged before the state’s Ballot Law Commission.

In 2018, a candidate for district attorney in Plymouth County was removed from the ballot after the commission found that he did not live in Plymouth as he claimed when registering to vote. John Bradley Jr., who ultimately lost after running a write-in campaign, lived in Boston when he registered, and while he was in the process of renting an apartment in Plymouth, he had yet to move into or sleep there. One of his opponent’s supporters challenged the candidacy.

Former state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, who represented the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester district from 1991 to 2018, won reelection six times after declaring a homestead at a Boston condominium, rather than at an Amherst home.

In 2002, candidate for governor Mitt Romney defeated a challenge to his candidacy. While Romney had lived for three years in Utah for a temporary position and had filed taxes for those years with Utah as his primary residence, the commission unanimously ruled that Romney met the constitutional requirement for seven years of residence in Massachusetts prior to an election.

Hinds said in a statement that he is considering whether to pursue re-election to his position as senator for the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District or to run for a statewide position. His office has not yet considered how residency requirements may affect his ability to run for reelection because he has not decided whether to do so, and an election is still more than a year away, a staff member said.

The Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District includes the Franklin County towns of Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Buckland, Hawley, Charlemont, Heath, Rowe and Monroe.


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