, Gloucester, MA

September 20, 2013

Letter: Self-accountability on seasonal resident voting

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

The letter to the editor that appeared over my signature in Thursday’s Times (Sept. 19) requires correction.

I stated that the voting registration for part-time residents is a local option/policy, and that isn’t so. The right to vote in local elections is directed by the commonwealth. Considerable communication between me and the Office of the Secretary of State demonstrates how complex the issue is.

In a written communication, the office states that there is no statute and no policy permitting voter registration for part-time residents. That comment, however, was later amended to illustrate how and where the authority is granted. It originates with a document entitled “Residence for Voting Purposes,” issued in 1997 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Page 11 of the booklet defines the process required granting the voting privileges to part time residents. From this point, the subject grows murky. Quoting from the document, “It is unlikely that many people will have their home in a community where they live only during the summer months.” This comment follows a dense definition of the term “home,” and the term, “domicile.”

Now the kicker: “To prove they are residents for the purpose of voter registration the citizens need only swear to that fact by signing an affidavit of registration. Officials may ask no further questions at the time of registration,” therefore, my statement that this process is a function of local government policy is incorrect.

The method required to challenge the registration is long, arduous, and expensive for the town. It requires time, bureaucracy, and is almost incomprehensible, as can be seen by events that have occurred in Essex.

My suggestion that our town clerk, Pat Brown, may have assumed authority for this process is incorrect. And the suggestion that the town administrator and the Board of Selectmen ought to have anticipated this situation is unreasonable. Therefore, I apologize to the town clerk, Pat Brown, and the town administrator, Linda Sanders, for inferring that something was amiss in Town Hall. I should have been more thorough in my research. And this is not to suggest that the attorneys working with me in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth were anything but patient, considerate, and courteous.

If I preach transparency and accountability, it requires me to follow my own preaching.