To the editor:
On Cape Cod, where town clerks and their boards of registrars understand domicile and residency for voting purposes, summer residents cannot vote at town meetings or local elections.
That is to say there is proper gatekeeping of the voter rolls to ensure that only full-time permanent year-round residents vote.
Taxpaying alone, whether for leased or owned properties, is not the ticket into the local voting booth or town meeting anywhere on Cape Cod. One must be a permanent resident to vote in any town election or town meeting. With the exception of Connecticut, all other New England states adhere to this basic principle.
In a famous domicile case (Leave v. Boston Elevated Ry.) the courts determined that "an intention that a certain place shall be a domicile is not conclusive where the person in fact has a domicile elsewhere." The courts denied a claim of residency to an individual where the "plaintiff's employment remained in Boston, and he continued to live in Boston during the winter months, and that the cottage in Hampton Beach was not habitable during the winter months."
A challenge to resident-only voting appeared in a 2002 article before Harwich Town Meeting that sought to petition the Legislature to allow non-residents to vote. The article failed.
In the 1980s, Eastham introduced legislation at the State House that would have allowed part-time residents to vote. Among the reasons given for the legislation's failure was the strong opposition from Berkshire communities that also have large nonresident taxpayer populations.
And just as Grover Cleveland was not permitted to vote in Bourne's elections or speak at town meeting, Essex's seasonal residents are governed by the same principles that applied to the president of the United States: One may only vote from the place recognized as true domicile, the place where you pay your income taxes from and where you typically wake up on Jan. 1 of any year — the Marriott brunch after the prior eve's New Year's bash notwithstanding.
As a result of the fastidious protection of the local voter rolls by town clerks throughout Cape Cod, dozens of communities on Cape Cod have given a voice to non-resident taxpayers through local taxpayer associations made up of summer residents. Although many non-resident taxpayers own Cape Cod homes, they have the integrity to not register to vote there and recognize that voting is reserved for state and local residents who pass the true domicile test for voting.
Unfortunately, in Essex, the integrity of our local electorate continues to be questionable since non-residents continue to breach the public trust by asserting false residency on their voter registration forms, secure in knowing that guardianship of the local voter rolls remains plainly non-existent.
It is disconcerting to read an email from the Essex town clerk who admits awareness of voter fraud in Essex, but says there is nothing she can do about it — and further, that enforcement of local voting and residency rules as done elsewhere are not necessarily right.
Although there are a number of easily identifiable structures that are unoccupied during the winter, without water or heat, part-time seasonal residents continue to wrongfully claim voting rights from places where they are not physically present nor can legally intend to remain: the two key components one must achieve to be granted legal voting privileges. These basic facts — physical presence and intent to remain — seem entirely lost on our town clerk and misunderstood by our Board of Registrars, which has yet to proactively remove any voters from the rolls in spite of ample evidence of systematic and widespread voter fraud in our town.
To that end, I have filed a complaint, aided by the financial support of dozens of other Essex residents, with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, calling into question the practices of the Essex town clerk and the Essex Board of Registrars.
Our action, guided by Attorney William McDermott Jr., is designed to usher in an era on our Cape, specifically Essex, which replicates the process and practices used in other seaside communities that protect the integrity of the local electorate.
The town clerk and registrars continue to believe that certain non-residents have the right to vote in Essex. They don't. Local voting is a right reserved for full-time, permanent residents.
President Grover Cleveland, a resident of New Jersey who summered on Cape Cod, understood that to be true, and we look forward to the day when our town officials understand that truth as well.