P.O. Box 324
Truro MA, 02666

Voter Challenges Concluded | 86% Who Defended Challenges Deemed Valid Voters

On October 17, Truro town leader Raphael Richter raised formal challenges to 66 of 149 (then) new voters registering between May 10 and Oct. 11, 2023.  Of these, 37 chose to defend their voting status and 32 (or 86%) were found to have validly registered to vote.

Of the original “66” challenged voters,  21 withdrew their new voter registrations following a terrifying “announcement” of by the Town of “Concerns About Voter Registration” –  which incorrectly asserted that new voters could face “unintended consequences” such as  criminal voter fraud and mortgage fraud charges  for filing voter registrations in error.  This is simply untrue: a registration proven to be invalid is simply stricken from the voter rolls. That is it.   Nonetheless, the suggestion that any mistake in voter registration could lead to criminal charges had a chilling effect on many.

TPRTA Put Rights of New Voters First

Voter challenges seemed targeted only at selected new voters having two homes in MA, irrespective of the fact that more than 100 persons on the voter rolls prior to May 9  (the last election) also met this condition –  but were not similarly challenged. Likewise, those under the age of 40 who had the same “dual address” condition were not challenged either.

In keeping with its mission to serve the Truro community, TPRTA arranged for a highly respected municipal elections lawyer to conduct a webinar for interested “challenged voters” on October 25th to provide information sufficient to orient challenged voters  to the “challenge process” and to help make it easier to handle if choosing to defend their voter registration.  This included what is known about the specific bases for the Richter challenges in general terms, what response options are under law, what impact a challenge may have, and more. This was educational, factual, and accurate, and at no cost to the participants.

The Attorney providing this webinar subsequently recommend other counsel who might represent a class action group, which TPRTA passed on to challenged voters and facilitated initial contact.  Twenty-four of the 45 remaining challenged voters chose to obtain joint representation in this manner.

TPRTA put priority on protecting new voters’ rights first, regardless of membership, residency status, or any other characteristic.  It was the only entity that offered help to challenged voters. And while it did so, TPRTA remained  out of the fray on all other matters to avoid taking the spotlight off this shocking voter challenge effort.

Four Nights of Pounding Challenge Hearings Ensued

From November 6 to 9, public “challenge” hearings were held against 45 of the remaining “challenged” voters by the Board of Registrars, itself contested for having been improperly constituted (per G.L. c. 51, § 15). Challenge hearings conducted by “temporary registrars” as a result.

The challenges led by Mr. Richter used criteria and information never before used in Truro concerning voter registration, and exposed Truro’s interest in keeping new senior voters off the voter rolls. Citizens were shocked by use of Town-proffered data from transfer station visits, and all kinds of information which the Town Administration made available to Mr. Richter or raised on its own through the Board of Registrars.  Even owning a future burial plot in Truro — which would qualify that voter as the ultimate full-timer — didn’t help one challenged voter pass muster.

The Body Count

At the conclusion of the hearings, this was the outcome: Of the 45 challenges scheduled, 37 were actually heard.  Of these,  32  –  or 86% – of those who defended their voter registrations were established to be validly registered voters.  Five (5) or 16% were stricken from the voter rolls.  This includes two appeals one won and one lost and eight who, like the original 21 who withdrew, choose not to be part of a shaming and shameful, expensive and aggressive public challenge to their voter rights.

Implications and Impacts Are Far Reaching

Not only did Truro intimidate and pressure its own residents with challenges that did not withstand scrutiny, but it also created new “standards” for voter registration unique to Truro and contravening MA law. It leaves Truro and all new voter registrants with uncertainty about what constitutes a valid voter registration in Truro, and it leaves current voters in doubt about whether their voting status can now be subject to challenge on the standards used to challenge recently registering voters. What will this mean for future “new voters”?

The process also revealed certain practices the Town MUST abandon, including no longer asking those who speak at public meetings if they are voters (unlawful, except at Annual/Special Town Meeting and actual elections); no longer asking about membership status in any organizations, whether TPRTA,  a local synagogue or church, Kiwanis, a political party, or even the Pamet Yacht Club, for example.

Without doubt, the hearings established that “part-timers” are eligible to vote in Truro if they have declared Truro home — the “center of their civic and social life” from the date of registration going forward — and that they vote nowhere else.  No other factors that seem to define “part-timers” in Truro were uniform or definitive — not owning two properties, excise taxes, RTE elsewhere, employment elsewhere, personal property tax paid in Truro, or the like.  In fact, the process seems to establish that residency status is a continuum, not an absolute.  “Full-timers” may be in Truro 7 months a year, as are many “part-timers”; they each may or may not participate in Town committees, work out of Town, own second homes, have kids attend school in other communities, and the like.

In other words, what defines a full-timer and part-timer is not so easy to distinguish, it seems.

Counsel representing challenged voters may issue additional reports on legal and policy impacts and well as on voting rights abuses that may have occurred. If so, TPRTA will make them available.