To the editor:
I would like to address the recent Times coverage, in the news and editorial, regarding voting rights in Essex — particularly those of Stephen Hartley of Essex.
First, as the assistant shellfish warden, he is obviously known to the town officials and to the so-named Clean Elections Fund.
Yet, the full facts of his circumstances have never been told publicly by either to dispel the heavy insinuation in print that he is committing fraud or some illegal act by voting in Essex.
Stephen Hartley of Conomo Point, Essex, is not registered to vote in Florida; there is no dual registration. The Times reported this after bringing up the possibility that he was registered in two states — raised by the say-so of Mr. Ageloff et. al., and no corrected information from town officials.
Also, Steven Hartley does not have a homestead filing in Florida as was stated, and as has been claimed by the Clean Elections Fund. The property partly owned by Mr. Hartley has a homestead exemption tied to it, but the homestead is not his.
The majority of leaseholders on Conomo Point are only allowed to live in their homes from April 15 to Oct. 15. This is not a casual arrangement of "summering" or vacationing in Essex.
The water is shut off on Oct. 15. To intimate that they are a community of privileged folks with multiple homes who are not civically and socially connected to the town is ludicrous. Everyone without a year-round permit who lives there must reside elsewhere in the winter, whether they wish to or not. Year-round permits are not now granted — nor have they been for many years.
The Times wonders aloud why the voting purge of Conomo residents suddenly stopped. The reasons given by Mr. Ageloff and the town are suspect. I refer to a quote from Ms. Wright, the town clerk, in response to the question:
Times Reporter: Wright said Tuesday that the Board of Registrars hasn't been able to meet yet to discuss the recent turn of events.
"This process brought this issue to light regarding voting eligibility," said Wright. "With the information we have, we have the obligation to follow up to an extent. But beyond that, we're stuck within Massachusetts state law, and we cannot reject voter registration."
Times Reporter: She said the board can wait on certain registrations for review for certain reasons, but they cannot ask for the same kind of documentation required at the hearings because that would pass as "voter intimidation." Said Wright: "We're bound by political correctness."
Is this equating voting rights and law with political correctness?
If the registrars came to know that they could not ask people registering to vote for the kind of documentation that they were asking for at the hearings, and they suddenly decided not to proceed with hearings, then the larger question would be: Were the people removed from the voting list victims of any voter intimidation?
The answer to that question should make an interesting next chapter in the ongoing saga of voting and rights in Essex. As Mr. Hartley's case should remind us, when the motives behind a voter challenge are questionable, innocent people get hurt.