Roper: So, second homeowners can vote in Vermont?

By Rob Roper

There is a vote fraud case in Vermont, currently in the Essex Superior Court, in which a family of second homeowners from Connecticut (parents and two adult children) registered to vote in the town of Victory, and did so. Their votes likely altered the outcome of a local election, which was decided by fewer than four votes.

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Now, all four of these family members listed Connecticut as their primary residence on their income taxes, had Connecticut drivers licenses, paid property taxes on a primary dwelling in Connecticut, did not pay residential property tax rates on their second home in Vermont, had jobs in Connecticut, and spent an overwhelming amount of their time in Connecticut. But they were voting by absentee ballot in Vermont, deciding who would represent in public offices people who actually live here. That’s vote fraud, right?

Wrong! At least according to our Secretary of State’s office.

Robert and Toni Flanagan, two of the defendants in this case, testified that they consulted with the Vermont Secretary of State’s office and were advised that their voting in Vermont under these circumstances was OK, that they should leave the residency box on the voter registration form blank.

Vermont statute says, “… ‘resident’ shall mean a person who is domiciled in the town as evidenced by an intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the town in definitely and to return there if temporarily absent, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent.”

How does one establish “intent”? In a recent interview, Secretary of State Jim Condos said, “My staff refers to the law and tells the person that they need to determine for themselves whether they qualify under the legal standard.” What? Determine for themselves?

Will Senning, who serves under Condos as Director of Elections, was asked under oath, “When a voter registers, does that voter have to have a principal residence in the town at the moment that they register?” Senning’s answer: “Not necessarily.” Asked “why not?” His answer was, “Because they may be intending to make that place their principal residence in the near future.” Pressed further with the question, “How far out can that intent be?” Senning testified, “There’s no objective standard in terms of that time frame.”

This wildly loose interpretation of the residency requirement does not reflect the spirit of the statue. In practice it means that there is no legal standard of residence for voting in Vermont. If individuals can determine for themselves that they qualify to vote here and can validate that determination simply by expressing an “intent” — which cannot be objectively challenged — what’s to stop anybody from anywhere from voting in our elections?

What allegedly happened in Victory is that the town clerk, an elected position, actively recruited these out-of-town friends to join the local voter rolls in order to help assure her own re-election.

The implications here are profound. According to census data, there are over 40,000 second homes in Vermont, or 14.6 percent of the total number of households. If these folks decide they don’t like their property tax bills — or love Vermont but don’t like its politics — they can register to vote here. All they have to do if questioned is tell election officials that they “intend” to make their second home in Vermont their permanent residence at some point in the future. Whether they actually ever do or not is irrelevant.

In fact, what’s to stop someone from registering in Vermont to vote in elections they think are more important here, and then re-registering in their real home towns to vote in elections they deem more important there — just so long as you don’t vote in both places for the same election you are apparently not committing any crime. Or at least not one that can be proven.

There are two ways of looking at this: A) this is good, legal, pubic policy. Or, B) our Secretary of State’s office under Jim Condos is not only turning a blind eye to but actively facilitating vote fraud.

If A, let’s alert all those people from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc. who own ski chalets and lake cabins in our communities of their legal options for participating in Vermont elections. The more the merrier. After all, in little old Vermont where elections are often decided by a handful of votes, your absentee ballot can really make a difference.

If B, we need to put some teeth into our residency requirements for voting and make sure this kind of nonsense does not and cannot happen.

Jim Condos is fond of saying there is no illegal voting going on in Vermont. I guess it’s easy to think that if you allow that nothing is illegal.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

15 thoughts on “Roper: So, second homeowners can vote in Vermont?

  1. Soo Let me get this right… My primary residence is in Essex Jct. My second home for 6 months of the year is in Colchester…it may become my primary home down the road. Jim Condos is saying I can vote in the local elections in Colchester because I may have “intent” to move there as my primary. What a great state we live in!

    • I don’t even have a second home, but my ‘intent’ is to move to Shelburne. So I guess I can start voting there because that is my ‘intent’. Cool.

  2. Wouldn’t be poetic justice if there were any way of determining if these folks by intending to move to Vermont some time in the future and voted in Vermont, voted in their home state as well. If it was found that they did, WOW! Wonder what lame comment Big Jim would have about them green apples? The law should be abundantly clear. To vote in Vermont one must be a Vermont residence, PERIOD.

  3. These comments sound like people are starting to wake up about how the Democrats operate..
    That is a very good thing.

  4. With Jimmy “C” – Anything Goes !

    Nothing Surprising Here, Secretary of State, Jim Condos, has always said he wanted to maximize voter access ! The more voters the better according to Jimmy ! He never has expressed any concern over whether those who were voting were qualified to do so !

    Out-of-Staters, underage, illegal aliens (whoops, undocumented voters), convicted felons, the recent (or not so recent) dead, phantom voters and even folks who the DMV registered who didn’t want to be registered because they knew they were unqualified – Jim wants them all to have their opportunity to sway the outcome in our elections.

    Ain’t Jim a generous guy? He has no problem diluting the votes of the legitimate Vermont Voters, like you and me, to insure that his Progressive and Democrat buddies stay in power !

    Way to Go Jimmy “C” !

    • We are approaching critical mass! Soon there will be more votes than adult citizens in Vt. That is the Progressive way!

  5. IF they are registered in Vermont, which REQUIRES them to meet residency requirements to vote, then they should also be paying INCOME TAX in Vermont. IF they are Registered in Vermont AND somewhere else, they are GUILTY OF VOTER FRAUD,which is PROVED if they voted there ALSO.

  6. This has been the Game Plan since Bernie came to town, Liberal /Progressive / Independent
    or Democrat all use the same game book , win by hook or by crook . It worked for Bernie !!

    Voters need to forms of ID, one photo ( Driver Lic ) and one Utility bill, as this will show name
    and address, pretty simple process . But if you look at the make up of all the representation we
    have in Montpelier by party , you’ll soon understand this will never happen !!

    Take a ride around the colleges in Burlington and check out the license Plates on the car and
    then look at the bumper stickers ……….. Vermonters , we are a bunch sucker .

  7. I want to know where in the world our illustrious Republicans are when it comes to this automatic voter registration? Our good governor, is after all, a Republican. Why isn’t he making an issue over this? And granted, there are few in the legislature, BUT they do have mouths, don’t they? Or are they just concerned about keeping their position and power (they don’t HAVE any power if they allow themselves, as they do, to get run over by the left).

  8. Look at the past 40 years of vote margins for the house and senate races here in Vermont. That should open some eyes. Then again some will say that voter fraud is insignificant and not enough to change any election.

  9. This is right out of Bernie’s book on how win with out local votes. If memory serves correctly Bernie got allot of collage student registered to vote in Vt. Too win his first race in Burlington. Nullifying the local votes with of state collage students.

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