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Pinckney answers address questions

First Byline: 
Kelly Champlin

For political purposes, Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the Democrat who was recently re-elected to the District 45 seat, lists his home address as P.O. Box 300 in Ridgeland. The physical address for that P.O. Box is a home at 171 Sunset Ave. in Ridgeland, according to Pinckney. He is registered to vote at that address.
The senator admitted recently in a telephone interview that he does not live at that address and hasn't since 2009.
Pinckney's voter registration was obtained through SCVotes.org, part of the SC Election Commission website.
P.O. Box 300 is also the address Pinckney used with the S.C. Ethics Commission to file his most recent campaign disclosure form on October 17, 2012, and is the address used when he filed his candidacy for the recent election.
According to property tax information obtained online through the Jasper County Treasurer's office, the home at 171 Sunset Ave. is owned by Theopia S. and Kenya Pinckney. Kenya is a relative of Pinckney's, and Theopia Stevenson Pinckney, now deceased, was Pinckney's mother.
That same property tax information shows that the address for Kenya Pinckney for tax year 2012 has a zip code for the town of Lacey, Wash. The tax bills for the property at 171 Sunset Ave. began going to out-of-state addresses in 2009, including addresses in Alabama and Georgia.
The property at 171 Sunset Ave. has been rented to a tenant and has been a rental property for at least two years.
A second P.O. Box address is also listed for Pinckney on the ethics commission website: P.O. Box 507, Ridgeland. It was used for Pinckney's Statement of Economic Interests report as his return address. It is also the post office box that Pinckney lists as his home address on the S.C. Senate webpage.
This post office box also goes back to 171 Sunset Ave., according to Pinckney.
He confirmed that he has not lived at the Sunset Avenue address since 2009 and gave another address close to that location.
"I've been at 233 Cross Creek Circle since about '09, and we put that house (Sunset Ave.) up for rent in 2011 and again this year, so that's really my old address, and I just haven't changed it," Pinckney said. "My [driver's] license doesn't expire until 2016, so I'll change that then. I just didn't change it. There's nothing nefarious."
The home at 233 Cross Creek Circle, Ridgeland, is owned by Pinckney's cousin on his mother's side of the family. That address has, however, only been listed in the Jasper County Tax Records online in his cousin's name since 2010.
Pinckney said he could not provide any proof of residency when asked if he had utility bills or any other pieces of mail that are sent to the Cross Creek Circle address in Ridgeland. He said that he does not receive mail there.
One of the state's definitions of residency is that of "domicile," where a person has their bills sent to, IRS forms sent to, where their personal property is - and where their family resides.
Pinckney said his wife and children live at 197 Foreman Road, Jackson, in Aiken County. Jackson is about 108 miles north of Ridgeland and is not in District 45, which includes parts of Jasper, Hampton, Charleston, Beaufort and Colleton counties. Jackson is about 75 miles from Columbia.
He confirmed that his eldest child attends a public school in Aiken County.
"My wife's parents have been getting up in age, and they've been off and on sick, and it's a personal family thing that we don't really talk about," Pinckney said, "but her family has been sick up and down and it was a tough decision, but I don't reside in that area ... That's where my wife is but that's not where I reside."
When asked about changing his voter registration when he moved from Sunset Avenue in 2009, Pinckney repeated that he didn't change it.
"I didn't because I didn't, and I need to," Pinckney said. "But it's the same precinct, its right down the street from 171 (Sunset) and I just haven't done it. That must have been an oversight on my part."
Pinckney did not change his address on either his voter registration or his vehicle registration. He did not change his address with the post office, the Election Commission or the Ethics Commission.
He also did not change his address with the Senate Clerk's Office.

State election rules
One of the requirements to file as a candidate for the S.C. Senate or House of Representatives is that the candidate must be a registered voter within the district they are campaigning for at the time of filing, according to Chris Whitmire, Director of Public Information and Training for the South Carolina Election Commission.
"South Carolina 7-1-25 says that a candidate must be a resident of the district at the time of filing," Whitmire said. "Residency is not verified by the state election commission. It's verified by the local and state parties. The County Election Commission verifies whether or not a candidate is a registered voter, then it goes to the parties."
Jasper County Election Commission Chairman Donald Sheftall did not return phone calls requesting information about Pinckney's address.
According to Jasper County Democratic Party Chairman Arthur Murphy, the local party does not verify addresses for candidates, although that is required by the state election commission.
"We don't have to verify his address. The address he puts out, if somebody else wants to challenge that, that's up to them," Murphy said.
He added that there's nothing unusual about a candidate having a post office box as an address.
"If that's what address you have, that's what address you have," he said. "It doesn't say that you have to have a physical address."
A voter is required to have a valid and current physical address to register to vote in South Carolina, according to the SC Elections Commission. A post office box may be used for mailing purposes only.