By Rob Roper
The vote fraud case in Victory, Vermont, concluded with eleven “voters” being removed from the town checklist. For the small Vermont community, this means a full 13 percent of registered voters were illegitimate, and these illegitimate votes were more than enough to alter the outcomes of elections.
What’s truly alarming about this case is that the root problem had more to do with election officials — either stubbornly ignorant or flat out corrupt — than with the non-resident voters. It’s hard to blame the out-of-towners who were told repeatedly, and defended by those in charge, that what they were doing was OK. It was the election officials who had a complete misunderstanding of the law. As Judge Thomas Devine stated in his decision, “This is not a situation where the Plaintiff contends that the BCA [Board of Civil Authority] made erroneous determinations of fact. Rather, this is a situation where the facts as found by the BCA do not support the legal conclusion of residency.”
The point at issue here is that the BCA contended that these second-home owners were eligible to vote because they had an “intent” to establish a primary domicile in the district at some point in the future, owned property, and that was enough to give them status to vote. The BCA believed this despite the law, which clearly defines a resident as:
“A natural person who is domiciled [not will be] in the State as evidenced by an intent to maintain [not establish] a principal [not secondary] dwelling place in the State indefinitely and to return there when temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent.” (Emphasis and bracketed comments added.)
Judge Divine’s ruling in Victory clarifies the obvious: “Domiciled requires having residence ‘coupled with an intention of remaining indefinitely,’ and neither residency or intent alone is enough to establish it.”
In other words, it is the job of local election officials to determine that a potential voter is A) currently domiciled in the district in which they would like to vote, and B) that they intend to maintain that residence as their primary domicile as evidenced by action. The Victory BCA did not do this.
So, what about other BCAs around the state? Some big questions to ask now are how and why did the Victory BCA come by its erroneous interpretation of the law that allowed non-resident second-home owners to vote in local elections? Is this a common belief/interpretation among BCAs and election officials throughout the state? Is this the standard upon which our entire statewide voter checklist has been built?
I will assert that the answer is yes.
Remember when Garrett Graff attempted to run for lieutenant governor after having lived in Washington, D.C., for over a decade? To qualify for that ballot there is a four-year residency requirement, and as VT Digger reported at the time, “While Graff has lived in Washington, D.C., for nearly a decade, he recently quit his job at Politico and moved to Burlington with his wife. He said he has remained a registered voter in the Green Mountain State. … ‘If someone is able to vote for office, they should be able to run for office,’ said Graff.” (Emphasis added.)
Sound logic, but as we know in accordance with Judge Divine’s ruling, Graff never was “able to vote for office” in Vermont after he left our state and established a primary domicile in D.C.. Yet, despite these very public comments in a statewide debate, nobody batted an eye at the fact that Graff had been voting illegally in Vermont as a non-resident for over a decade — not local election officials, not legislators not the secretary of state. (And this was a guy running for the second highest statewide office we have!) Why not? Because they all believed Graff was correct about his voting status.
The “future intent” or “intent to return” is the standard that has been applied — and applied wrongly — to Vermont’s voter checklist on a statewide level for at least a decade and for likely longer than that. This has allowed people who do not reside in our communities to influence the outcomes of or local elections. We first need to find out how widespread this problem is. Is it the 13 percent level of Victory? It’s a small town, but not as hot a second-home destination as many other Vermont communities. And then we need to get to work cleaning up our voter lists and correcting this injustice.