Roper: Condos still misinforming about residency requirements for voters

By Rob Roper

A recent op-ed back and forth between Secretary of State Jim Condos and Deb Bucknam, the attorney who prevailed in the Victory, Vermont, vote fraud case, indicates the SOS is still confused about the judge’s ruling and, in his confusion, is misinforming town clerks and justices of the peace as to what Judge Devine’s ruling says and means.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Condos’ article is headlined “Non-residents should not be allowed to vote.” No arguments there. However, this is a deflection from the real issue a hand, which is about who is a resident and who is ineligible to be so for purposes of voting. Condos’ ideas about this are much more expansive than the law allows. He (necessarily) paraphrases, “Judge Devine’s legal analysis can be summed up by his conclusion that a person claiming residency in a Vermont town must show BOTH an intent to be a permanent resident of that town, coupled with actions sufficient to support that intent. As the judge wrote.”

This is absolutely incorrect!

“Intent” is relevant only to one, not both, of those conditions. Intent is irrelevant in regard to establishing a primary domicile. One has to actually be a permanent resident in the district in order to be at all considered for inclusion on the voter checklist. Intent to establish a permanent residence in the future, or intent to return to the district after having established a primary domicile elsewhere, carries zero weight, contrary what the secretary of state says. “Intent” in the law refers to the intention to maintain that primary domicile and to return to it if temporarily absent.

The actual language of the law defines a resident as: “a person who IS domiciled in the town as evidenced by an INTENT TO MAINTAIN a principal dwelling place in the town indefinitely and to return there if temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent.” 17 V.S.A. § 2122(b). [Emphasis added]

Judge Devine clarifies these points in his ruling:

Defendants rest on Ms. Saligman and Mr. McGill’s statement that they intend to move to Victory in ten or twelve years. This statement is an admission that they do not currently reside in Victory. Rather, Victory is where they would like to someday reside. The BCA’s determination that Ms. Saligman and Mr. McGill ‘had an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place’ in Victory someday does not establish residency now.

And further:

[A] nebulous or floating intention of returning at some future time is an insufficient tie to maintain one’s domicile upon physically relocating to another place ‘with an intention … of remaining there for an indefinite time as a fixed place of abode’” Gosbee v. Gosbee, 2015 Vermont

Secretary Condos is either intentionally or unintentionally perpetuating the incorrect understanding that intent to move into a district (or back into a district after having established a primary domicile outside the district) is enough to allow someone onto the voter checklist. It’s not.

So, with the 2018 elections rapidly approaching and Boards of Civil Authority getting the voter lists cleaned up in anticipation, please share this with the justices of the peace and town clerks in your community. Otherwise, fraudulent votes could determine the outcomes of elections in your town, just as they did in Victory.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain and Rob Roper

10 thoughts on “Roper: Condos still misinforming about residency requirements for voters

  1. Didn’t this start when Bernie started registering out of state UVM students to vote.
    Such was noted at the time, but nothing was done.
    Their citizenship was out of state, likely they had obviously temp. occupancy, and were added to the voting rolls.

  2. Condos’ reply (see below) does absolutely nothing to rebut Mr. Roper’s position. He should try selling his snake oil somewhere else.

  3. Let me kknow when you have enough non-Progs registered to vote in Vermont to vote out those believing ‘intent’ is a legal condition.
    Ididn’t ‘intend’ to kill him. I didn’t ‘intend’ to speed. I didn’t ‘intend’ to purger myself. (Clinton defense) I didn’t ‘intend’ to unlawfully cast a vote.

    One has to believe that with any of a liberal suasion would/will consider lying when necessary to accomplish a desired end.

  4. Mr. Roper,
    Let me be clear… Neither I nor my staff in the Elections Division have ever advised that someone who simply intends to move to Vermont at some time in the future can be considered a resident for voting purposes. We would never have advised the McGill/Saligman’s and the Flanigans that they were eligible.

    The guidance we provide, including the language on our website, simply makes clear, as Judge Devine confirmed, that both a person’s intent and their actions providing evidence of that intent must be considered when deciding whether they are a resident for voting purposes. The determination of domicile, as the judge stated, “necessarily considers the state of mind of an interested party.” It is a subjective standard, no matter how black and white you would like it to be.

    The Senate Committee on Government Operations noticed a hearing on the residency statute, and specifically the issues raised by the case in Victory, just a few weeks ago. I noted Mr. Roper was not present at the time the issue was to be considered. If you were truly concerned about the status of the law, that would have been the ideal time and place to provide your opinion to the lawmakers who write the law.

    Again, I think you should also reread the comments in the Victory Town Clerk article – Dan Richardson – the Victory Town Attorney – might know a few things about this case…

    “…But Victory’s town attorney… Daniel Richardson, doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Martel on blaming the Secretary of State’s office for the voting troubles.

    “To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of the Secretary of State’s office interpreting the key voter qualification statutes under 17 V.S.A. § 2121 or 17 V.S.A. § 2122 as allowing out-of-towners to register to vote in a town,” Richardson told True North. “I know some members of the Victory BCA claimed that they had consulted the Secretary of State’s office, but they never received a written opinion or detailed what guidance they actually received. So, I cannot really evaluate what was said.”
    Richardson added that, in his experience, the secretary of state does not offer advice on individual voter eligibility questions.

    “(The secretary of state) gives generalized guidance to town officials and refers them to the town attorney for more specific questions,” he said. “My best guess is that what occurred in this case was confusion by some of the BCA members with the nuances of the law.

    My own conversations with the Secretary of State’s office indicated that it understood and was interpreting the law in a manner that was consistent with the positions that the town took in court and which were ultimately upheld by (Superior Court) Judge Devine.”

    It’s the legislature (with legislation signed by the Governor) that sets the law in place. Our job is to implement the law. The issue of residency is a policy decision set by them. At least 3-4 times over the last 7-8 years (the latest just a few weeks ago) has debated this very issue and chosen not to change it. The Ag’s office has researched state statutes and found at least 15 different requirements for residency depending on the issue.

    And there is case law as well – a case a few years ago re: a Vermont woman who lived in VT but left for several years to care for her senior parents. And of course, we now have the Victory case – which we agree with the decision and outcome.

    • Condos,

      The law says: a resident is a person who IS domiciled in the town as evidenced by an INTENT TO MAINTAIN A PRINCIPAL DWELLING PLACE IN THAT TOWN, …….

      That place is that person’s principal “pied a terre”.
      He returns to that place very frequently, almost daily, just like you go home after work.
      IOW, it is not a vacation place which he may visit, many times or a few times, each year.

      His objective state of mind is such that HE considers it his PRIMARY residence. It is his mailing address, regarding the post office, his bank, his driver’s licence, his social security, medical and tax records, etc.

      If he is civic minded, provided he is a fully documented citizen, he has the right to register to vote. About 55% of registered voters regularly exercise that right.

    • Now doesn’t that just sound silly:

      The Ag’s office has researched state statutes and found at least 15 different requirements for residency depending on the issue.”

      Why would you need 15 DIFFERENT requirements for residency? Should the same say, 2 or 3 be sufficient for ALL of the residency issues?

  5. Intent? It’s simple, either you are a resident or your are not. Intent is meaningless as one can change one’s mind daily.

  6. Vermont is in need of a new Secretary of State in the next election as Jim Condos is either incapable or adamant against enforcing Vermont election law.
    The solution is rather simple,find a candidate who will.

    • Vermont is in need of many new people in the State House. I hope that some recent events
      will get people out to vote.

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