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.
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.
[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.