Did Mitt Commit Voter Fraud? Town Clerk Says 'No'
With the internet abuzz with allegations against the Republican front runner, Belmont Patch asked the expert, Town Clerk Ellen Cushman. Her answer: Romney's a resident. And the state backs her.
For the past two days, the internet has been abuzz with the latest political scandal, although this one has nothing to do with twitter photos or sexual shenanigans.
And the center of this brewing controversy is ... here.
Did longtime Belmont resident and Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney commit the serious crime of voter fraud – that could result in a five year prison sentence –when in January 2010 he strode up the steps to the second floor of Town Hall to vote in Precinct 2?
The story, which has been on the 'net for less than 72 hours, has exploded over the Web. A google search – which had become the modern de facto gauge of popularity – finds more than one million hits when searching for the key words Romney, voter, fraud.
Yesterday, June 13, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow spent a portion of her opinion program citing the allegations as did numerous media publications in primary states, in magazines such as New York and mentioned on the Huffington Post (editor's note: the Patch network of hyperlocal sites is part of the Huffington Post Media Group).
The allegations against the South Cottage Road resident emerged this week in an article on the Mother Jones magazine website.
In a story written by staff reporter Stephanie Mencimer, Fred Karger – a person who says he is also running for president – said he filed a formal complaint with the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's Office claiming that Romney was not a Massachusetts or Belmont resident when he slide this paper ballot into the scanning machine during the election for US Senator which Scott Brown won.
Karger claimed to Mother Jones that Romney no longer qualifies as a Belmont resident since he has moved several times since failing to win the Republican nomination in the summer of 2008 especially since he sold his long-time Marsh Street home in April 2009 .
Karger said since Ronmey spent a great deal of time in his other homes in La Jolla, California and on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, he no longer could claim that his primary residency was Belmont despite registering to vote using his son's Greensbrook Way address.
Karger, which Mother Jones dubbed an expert in performing "opposition research" for Republican candidates, did not believe that Romney was actually living "in his son's basement" nor living in a newly constructed townhouse he bought in June 2010 that Mencimer noted is located on "the grounds of the McLean Mental Hospital."
Mencimer wrote that Karger ventured to Belmont to talk to residents, store owners – including the town's "fish monger" – and members of the Church of the Latter Days Saint's community which the Romney's have been part of the leadership since arriving in Belmont in the early 1970s, all who have said that Romney has not been part of life in Belmont for years.
Talk to the Clerk
Yet the one person that Krager, Mencimer and the other publications and shows that have spotlighted the story did not contact was the Belmont town official who could have answered all their questions.
And Ellen Cushman, Belmont's town clerk and person responsible for voter registration, said that Romney is not only a registered voter and resident of the town since 1972, he actually has been one of the town's most active voters since 1976.
"If everyone was as dedicated as he has been, we'd have a far more involved electorate," said Cushman.
In fact, the last election he missed was a town election in April 2010 when his absentee ballot arrived late.
"And that was the one I was elected as town clerk," joked Cushman.
Since she has been expecting and has received numerous requests for information on Romney's residency, Cushman quickly produced two signed letters from Romney indicating he was changing his Belmont voting address from Marsh Street to Greenbrook Way in May 2009 and then to his present home on South Cottage Road.
See the letters as PDFs on this website.
"Since he meets all the requirements to vote in the country – he's over 18, an American citizen and a resident of the town – he is and has been registered to vote in Belmont," she said.
Cushman noted that as long as Romney isn't trespassing in someone's home and hasn't requested to become a resident of another town anywhere else in the country, he is considered a resident of Belmont.
"Where his residency is"
"And since he is an active voter, he proves that this is where his residency is," said Cushman.
Nor does it appear Romney has attempted to change his official residency since 2008. According to Rosemary Norling at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Romney is not and never has been a registered voter in San Diego County. Romney owns at $12 million home in the tony La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego.
While Ronmey is reported to spend considerable time in his other homes and traveling, that is not unusual for many fellow Belmont residents, said Cushman.
"We have quite a number of 'snow birds' who live half the year in Florida or down South and there are residents who use the town as a home-base since they are traveling on business for most of the year," said Cushman.
In fact, many older resident will pick up absentee ballots before heading South so they can vote in Belmont elections, said Cushman.
And the Secretary of the Commonwealth is not only backing Cushman in her ruling that Romney is a valid resident and voter in Belmont but throws a large bucket of ice water on Krager's claims.
"(Krager) sent us and the Department of Revenue, for some reason, only a letter asking us to conduct an investigation," said Brian McNiff, spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, then adding, "There will be no investigation."
"The time to challenge a person's residency is before the election, not after," said McNiff.
And McNiff added that it is the responsibility of the town's Registrars of Voters to determine if a person can register to vote in Belmont, a board which Cushman is a member.
"Mr. Romney has declared that Belmont has been his hometown and continues to be so," said Cushman.
"And why should we dispute that?"