Condos: Non-residents should not be allowed to vote

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos.

Recently, St. Johnsbury attorney Deborah Bucknam penned an editorial attacking me, titled “Allowing non-residents to vote equals voter suppression.”

While I agree that non-residents voting in Vermont elections would dilute the votes of Vermonters, I could not disagree more with her premise that my office provided guidance to allow or encourage this activity — she used careful and selective editing to make her case.

state of Vermont

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos

To the contrary, we work every day to train and assist Vermont’s hard-working city and town clerks who administer the voter registration process to ensure that only eligible Vermont residents are added to and remain on the voter checklist. The authority to add/delete people from the voter checklist resides with the clerks and Boards of Civil Authority (BCA).

As the chief election official in Vermont, my most important responsibility is to ensure that all elections are free and without corruption.

However, unlike Ms. Bucknam and others who seek to sow mistrust in our elections process, I am confident that Vermont’s local city and town clerks and BCA members take their responsibilities seriously — including their responsibility to ensure that only eligible Vermont residents are placed on, and remain on, the voter checklists. We have no evidence or indication of a widespread issue in Vermont of non-residents remaining registered and voting in Vermont elections.

Ms. Bucknam’s editorial references a recent case involving the Town of Victory in which Superior Court Judge Thomas Devine concluded that certain individuals on the Victory voter checklist were not residents of the town and ordered them removed from the checklist. She somehow fails to mention that she was the attorney who represented the plaintiff in this case, a fact which adds important context to her presentation of the facts and conclusions.

RELATED: Superior Court ruling a victory for election integrity in Vermont

Judge Devine’s legal analysis can be summed up by his conclusion that a person claiming residency in a Vermont town must show BOTH an intent to be a permanent resident of that town, coupled with actions sufficient to support that intent. As the judge wrote, “Expressed intent must be viewed in light of the other objective evidence” and that “neither residency or intent alone is enough to establish [domicile].”

Ms. Bucknam points to language contained in guidance on our website stating “the law creates a subjective standard,” and claims this is an “erroneous directive” advising “that individuals with a subjective intent to move to a town are eligible to vote.”

Not surprisingly, she took this language entirely out of context. The complete paragraph on our website from which she extracted a single line to support her argument reads:

The law creates a subjective standard. This means that it is the voter’s intent and actions that determine residency, not how many nights a year the voter sleeps in town. A voter who has more than one home must decide which one is his or her “principal” dwelling place.

As Judge Devine stated, “Expressed intent must be viewed in light of the other objective evidence.”

Directly contrary to Ms. Bucknam’s claims, the language on our website actually mirrors and confirms the judge’s decision, and has done so since long before the judge’s decision.

The law itself, which I am bound to enforce, requires in its plain language: “an act or acts consistent with that intent.” I have always been clear that objective actions and evidence of the same must be present to support a person’s stated intent to make a town their primary residence.

The residency determination should be made on a case-by-case basis, looking at the facts and intentions of the particular individual — the subject of the application. Merriam Webster’s fourth definition for the term “subjective” is “peculiar to a particular individual.” It is in precisely this way that the term subjective is used in the guidance on my website — on a case-by-case basis, particular to an individual’s specific circumstance.

Again, this guidance is wholly in line with Judge Devine’s decision in the Victory matter. As the judge states in his decision, “[A] determination of domicile necessarily considers the state of mind of an interested party.” Ms. Bucknam can extract pieces of the language from both my website and the judge’s decision in order to conclude that my directives are erroneous, but that doesn’t make it true.

Finally, Ms. Bucknam also asserts that my advice regarding the right of college students to register and vote in the town where they are attending college is contrary to the law and the court’s decision.

As an attorney, Ms. Bucknam should take the time to research the well-established line of court cases that have established the right of college students to vote. Denying those attending college in Vermont the right to register and vote in the town where they are attending school would most likely be overturned by the courts. Ms. Bucknam should do her legal research.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/EPP and state of Vermont

16 thoughts on “Condos: Non-residents should not be allowed to vote

  1. College students right to vote. If there is evidence they are voting as indoctrinated to do so, yes, by all means vote. Thier vote is hardly expected to differentiate between “free speech abridged and free speech if it’s my speech.” Seriously, I find it difficult for a court to up hold such an obvious intentionally taught subversion to U.S. Constitutional principles taking place on our campuses to woodbe voters without having themselves been indoctrinated by voter graft, elected, appointed or installed in an ideological perception of preferential conformity.
    Supposedly not according to lady justice! This can’t happen.

    A voter needs to be a resident for at least one 12 month or one complete income tax cycle, who is gainfully employed and possesses a means to sustain independently a financial existence where he or she is capable of suffering the consequences or reaping the Benifits of the collaborative legal voter population decisions without outside financial support.

    A student is to impressionable in a dictatorial educational system intent on subversion of Constitutional principles where my way or the highway environment, my free speech not yours, and my space not your space is expectedly not tolerated.

    The Confucius Centers, etc on our campuses must be proud of the fomenting of division and degrading of America and its constitutional principles.
    Shame on our media and our legislators for swallowing the hook, “the nirvana, the line, “the manipulation and the sinker “the intended indoctrination and then refusing to eat the crow because they continue to deni the obvious, they “were hoodwink”.

  2. Quoting a sentence above about the Board Of Civil Authority ” The authority to add/delete people from the voter checklist resides with the clerks and Boards of Civil Authority (BCA).”

    The Structure and legitimate “authority” of the BCA is a farce. They know nothing about town matters and should be eliminated, but allowed to exist by the State.

    I know first hand their crapology. If you fight your property taxes you have to grieve to this Board after the Lister grievance. They just rubber stamp previous decisions. My land is valued because of “potential features” like elec, views when none exists. They are greedy for tax money. The BCA consists of no one in real authority about anything.

    Want facts, I’ll produce. The BCA is a road block for any taxpayer, set up by the VT Tax Dept. I’ve spent so much time and money on “the Tax System”.

    If I become a Lister, all those against me will be valued like they valued my property, fight the system as I and others have to. TaxUmont for sure. BCA, BS

  3. There is no enforcement of anything any more. The legislator upon taking office requires the taking of an oath that must be sworn to under the pains and penalties of perjury. This oath is constantly violated by legislators but their is no mechanism to enforce the pains and penalties part of the perjury violation. The same applies to government leaders. The voters appear either too ignorant to care or agree with things the way they are ( I believe the first option). As in this case of a judge’s decision and clarification of the residency law for voting, no one can enforce it and the Secretary of State knows that he can ignore the decision by the omission of the judges decision and clarification on his website and nothing changes. Laws are for the little people. If you are connected or a member of the powerful progressive cabal that now controls the state you are immune to the laws that you are supposed to enforce. If you are required to swear an oath to our constitution you already know there is no enforcement of your swearing. How can those of us who do care change this system when no one steps forward to bring honesty and justice to those who run continually twist, omit and lie to forward their political agenda? Will someone please give me an answer as to why we can’t enforce these important changes that are needed to bring honesty back to our government?

  4. SOS Condos and his subordinates deliberately distort the plain meaning of VT election law, as well as Judge Devine’s clear decision in the Victory case, to advance his/their political bias. Rob Roper’s retort is spot-on. As an election official myself, I know for a fact that the voter eligibility issues at the center of the court’s ruling are not unique to Victory. I’ll leave it at that in this forum, but keep the powder dry; there’s surely more to come!

    • That’s sorta funny, SOS. Being in the military I’m use to it meaning Sh–it on a Shingle. And it was good in Altus AFB OK.

  5. Condos,

    I am a fully-documented US citizen.

    I live elsewhere, but own a house in Vermont.

    Someday soon, I intent to reside in Vermont, and in anticipation of that I opened a savings and checking account in Vermont.

    Would that be sufficient to qualify to vote in Vermont?

    • Condos will ask if you have a picture of your favorite ski area in the state. If you do, and your kids are in it, then he feels this would constitute residency. When I applied upon MOVING HERE and opening a full time business, my town clerk contacted the state I’d left and had my name removed from the voter registry there.
      Secondly, I had no interest in voting in both states, as the one I left was going down the same drain that Condos want’s this state to go down. That was a while ago.

    • To hell with the procedures. Just open a PO Box. Who is to know low long you’ve been in VT? Create a paper trail. In Alaska, to be a resident (on paper) you have to be there to get the oil check. But I had first hand talkings by a resident in AK that said, that’s not the real situation, you need to be there only 30 days. With all the summer jobs there, easily done. AK is a nice place, seen much of it.

  6. Sec. Condos does not seem to understand the ruling here. He writes, “Judge Devine’s legal analysis can be summed up by his conclusion that a person claiming residency in a Vermont town must show BOTH an intent to be a permanent resident of that town, coupled with actions sufficient to support that intent.” That is an incorrect analysis. The actual ruling requires an ACTUAL permanent residency of the town, not intent, coupled with intent to MAINTAIN that residency. Here’s the actual language from Judge Devine’s ruling, “…domiciled requires HAVING residence ‘coupled with an intention of REMAINING indefinitely,’ and neither residency or intent alone is enough to establish it.” [emphasis added].

    • Robert,
      You have an eagle eye, regarding what the judge ACTUALLY WROTE, whereas Condos merely purveys the nonsense of his website.

      My suggestion to Condos, he should immediately CORRECT his website to include the actual WORDING OF THE JUDGE


      • “Intent” is a key word here. After Killary Clintoon, intent to defraud or not is most important. “But I didn’t intend to defraud everybody, so it’s OK”.

        Sure it is…

    • Mr. Roper,

      Neither I nor my staff in the Elections Division have ever advised that someone who simply intends to move to Vermont at some time in the future can be considered a resident for voting purposes. The guidance we provide, including the language on our website, simply makes clear, as Judge Devine confirmed, that both a person’s intent and their actions providing evidence of that intent must be considered when deciding whether they are a resident for voting purposes. The determination of domicile, as the judge stated, “necessarily considers the state of mind of an interested party.” It is a subjective standard, no matter how black and white you would like it to be.

      The Senate Committee on Government Operations noticed a hearing on the residency statute, and specifically the issues raised by the case in Victory, just a few weeks ago. I noted you were not present at the time the issue was to be considered. If you were truly concerned about the status of the law, that would have been the ideal time and place to provide your opinion to the lawmakers who write the law.

      I think you should also reread the comments in the Victory Town Clerk article – Dan Richardson is Victory Town Attorney and might know a few things about this case…

      …But Victory’s town attorney… Daniel Richardson, doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Martel on blaming the Secretary of State’s office for the voting troubles.

      “To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of the Secretary of State’s office interpreting the key voter qualification statutes under 17 V.S.A. § 2121 or 17 V.S.A. § 2122 as allowing out-of-towners to register to vote in a town,” Richardson told True North. “I know some members of the Victory BCA claimed that they had consulted the Secretary of State’s office, but they never received a written opinion or detailed what guidance they actually received. So, I cannot really evaluate what was said.”

      Richardson added that, in his experience, the secretary of state does not offer advice on individual voter eligibility questions.

      “(The secretary of state) gives generalized guidance to town officials and refers them to the town attorney for more specific questions,” he said. “My best guess is that what occurred in this case was confusion by some of the BCA members with the nuances of the law. My own conversations with the Secretary of State’s office indicated that it understood and was interpreting the law in a manner that was consistent with the positions that the town took in court and which were ultimately upheld by (Superior Court) Judge Devine.”

  7. What about Vermont residents who have plans to relocate? It took us two years to get situated where we could relocate from Vermont, so during that time I suppose it could be argued that we did not have intent to be permanent residents of Bennington. In fact, I ran for the Senate with the hope I could help bring reason to state policy debate, instead of relocating, which we first seriously began to consider in 2000 because we wanted a healthier culture to raise our boys. So I suppose even while in the Senate my intent to be a permanent resident could have been questioned. We hoped Vermonters would chose a different direction, but had no assurances and in the end we, like so many other Vermonters, voted with our feet.

  8. Nothing has changed in Burlington, yes back in the day the students got Bernie into Office
    as Mayor .

    It’s the same, out of state tuitions , live in the dorms or apartment and then go vote !!
    It’s worst today, the students have been indoctrinated by the left leaning schools and
    see what we have.

    Why don’t these little darlings vote in there home state ( wait ) I bet they do .

    So according to the Vermont Voters Page, answer three question correctly and “State ”
    your a resident ………. your in , I guess no one would lie ??

    You would think if your a resident you should have current Vermont Driver License and
    you car should be registered in Vermont ??

    Drive around UVM or Champlain and check out the license plates and bumper stickers
    and you wonder why we are in trouble……….Feel The Bern !!

  9. Ha! Ha, ha! The State has literally no idea who is voting. None. The best we’ve got are the great town clerks and volunteers who, might often, recognize a.voter or two, here and there.

    Beyond that, without any identification, we could have platoons of Russians voting and we wouldn’t be the wiser.

    Making a stand on the “who’s a resident” nonsense? Only by virtue of the size of the town did the Victory case come to light. Period.

    College students can vote because residentz? If Vermont college students can vote because of their “intent to reside”, why does the state, simultaneously, have an “all the young people are leaving” problem? Demographically, student residency intent seems to be a grand case of voter fraud.

    I’m sure the Secretary of State will be looking into these matters soon.

  10. I’m no longer a resident of VT, thankfully.

    “Judge Devine’s legal analysis can be summed up by his conclusion that a person claiming residency in a Vermont town must show BOTH an intent to be a permanent resident of that town, coupled with actions sufficient to support that intent.”

    So like it was when I went to UVM back in the day. I can pay out of state tuition, live in the dorms, yet vote in local elections.

    Wonderful system you have there.

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