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November 4, 2012

Essex woman frozen out from voting

ESSEX — Last Thursday night, just five days before a national election, Susan Abis of Middle Road found out the voter registration she had filed in Essex was denied, and for the first time in nearly 35 years, she would not cast a ballot. After transferring her drivers’ license to Massachusetts in June and collecting the proper documentation to register in Essex, Abis drove to the town clerk’s office and filled out a registration form on Oct. 17. A week later, she received an invitation to discuss her registration application at a registrars meeting on Nov. 1. At that meeting, officials decided Abis was ineligible to vote in Essex.

“We found that the evidence was not enough to support Essex being the center of her social, civic and domestic life,” Town Clerk Christina Wright said. “It really comes down to the individuals, and we can only act on the evidence in front of us.”

Abis, a Conomo Point homeowner who also lives part time in New Hampshire, had been denied voter registration in Essex before too. After having voted in Essex between November 2010 and Sept. 2011, Abis was removed from the ballot in the town’s cleansing of their voter rolls, encouraged by residents who opposed the seasonal residents’ registration.

Abis attempted to register again in Essex in November of last year, but was denied. In March she put in another attempt to no avail. Then, after officials at the Department of Motor Vehicles and an attorney told Abis that her Massachusetts drivers’ license, along with bills addressed to her name and Essex address, would be enough evidence of her residency, she tried this one last time in October.

“The DMV said you have all the documentation and yes, this is fine. But it’s not fine for Essex,” Abis said. Registrars questioned Abis and discussed her registration situation and potential voter eligibility over the course of about two hours Thursday night, she said. Abis said members of the board of registrars asked her questions on topics including where she attends church, her participation in local social groups and her dog’s age. The registrar’s, with Abis’ assistance totaled the number of days she spent on Conomo Point in the past year too, figuring Abis spent about one third of the year on the peninsula.

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