Roper: Second-home owners testify Condos’ office OK’d voting in Vermont

By Rob Roper

The case surrounding voter irregularity in Victory, Vermont, currently in the Essex Superior Court, involves a number of people who do not live in the town voting in local elections — enough to sway the outcome of at least one contest. Testimony from the case would indicate that these folks had at least an inkling that what they were doing was wrong, or at least fishy, because they asked the Vermont Secretary of State’s office if what they were doing was really legal. However, according to their sworn testimony, officials in the office told them it was OK.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

It is important to note that none of these people ever claimed to be domiciled in the town where they were voting, as one has to be according to Vermont law to be added to the voter checklist. The statute clearly states that a voter must be “a person who is [repeat, “is”] domiciled in the town as evidenced by an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the town indefinitely.”

The Flanigan family (two parents and two adult children) and another couple, Laury Saligman and John McGill, are open about the fact that they maintain principal dwelling places in Connecticut and Montpelier respectively. What they have in Victory are second homes. (McGill/Saligman have a non-winterized cabin). They would like to move there permanently at some point in the future, but they don’t live there now. In the McGill/Saligman case, that intention to move is admittedly some 12 years in the future and is nebulously dependent upon the growth of a business.

Open about the fact that none of them actually live in Victory, they each contend, under oath, that they contacted the Secretary of State’s office to ask if they could nevertheless vote there. Here are excerpts from their sworn testimony:

McGill: “Before applying to be on the Victory checklist I discussed my situation with the Secretary of State and was advised I was eligible to vote in Victory.”

Saligman: “Before registering to vote, my husband called the Secretary of State’s office several times to go over our situation and inquire about voting eligibility. He had several conversations and was told that since we have invested significantly in winterizing and updating our cabin, pay significant taxes, and have an intent to move to Victory we would have the right to vote in Victory.”

Toni Flanigan: “Before submitting the [voter registration] form I spoke to the Secretary of State Elections office and I was told not to fill it out [the sections asking whether you are a resident of Vermont and asking whether have taken the Voter’s Oath] until we became full-time residents when we retire. They also told me I was eligible to vote in Victory.”

Robert Flanigan’s answer was identical to his wife’s.

If their testimony is true, the Secretary of State’s office under Jim Condos is actively undermining Vermont’s clearly written election law regarding residency requirements. If Condos’ misinterpretation of 17 V.S.A. § 2122(b) is not challenged, anyone who owns property in Vermont is eligible to register to vote here, regardless of their actual primary dwelling place.

How many other out-of-state part-time property owners, how many town clerks, how many Boards of Civil Authority have received this misguided, illegal advice from our secretary of state? How many local elections has this affected?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

3 thoughts on “Roper: Second-home owners testify Condos’ office OK’d voting in Vermont

  1. Thank you Tom Koch…

    Mr. Roper, let me be very clear… As I replied to your Op Ed of 9/21 & and my email of 11/16…

    We do not believe, and would never suggest, that the language in the residency definition means second home owners in Vermont may register to vote here.

    As for the testimony of the Flanigans and Mr. McGill, at no time did anyone in this office tell any of these individuals that they were qualified to register and vote in Victory.

    As is our practice with all calls we receive with questions about a person’s eligibility to register, we explain the requirements and leave the decision as to whether they qualify up to them, their town clerk, and the local Board of Civil Authority – which is the statutory process..

    They have clearly misunderstood what we told them – in what appears to be a case of hearing what they want to hear.

    The decision to add someone to a voter checklist is a LOCAL decision made by the Town Clerk or the Board of Civil Authority. We do not have all of the facts. We are not advising the Victory BCA or any other BCA about whom to add or remove from their checklist. It is now up to the courts to decide whether the Victory BCA got it right – this is the process outlined in statute.

  2. Widespread interest? More like total disinterest.

    Sec. Condos’ advice is clearly wrong, and I have to believe he was not given all of the facts, or that there was some other miscommunication. If one “intends” to become a resident before Election Day, one is permitted to register and vote. But 12 years in the future? Nonsense.

  3. This incident is probably not an isolated one. I hope there is widespread media interest to investigate illegal voting activity in Vermont. People should write their legislators demanding action to investigate the Secretary of State’s Office under Condos’s management (or is it lack thereof.)

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