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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Voting rights for rich vacationers....NOW!


At the sparsely attended “Citizens Forum” on Monday night, Tom DePatie kicked off what may become a hot 2012 campaign issue: the oppression of absentee owners of million-dollar beach properties.

Why can’t they vote on town financial matters, asked DePatie. He noted there were 78 purchases of multi-million-dollar shoreline properties just in the past three years, mostly by out-of-state buyers, and – HORRORS! – they can’t vote.

Mr. DePatie is a founder and Board member of the RI Statewide Coalition (formerly the Shoreline Coalition), whose first top priority was winning voting rights for out-of-state property owners. Mr. DePatie is also a founder and a Steering Committee member of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA). And he’s part of that million-dollar shoreline property owner set with a 5000-square-foot house assessed at a million and a quarter on West Beach Road.

Is the CCA and its cousin, the RI Statewide Coalition, gearing up for a campaign for Voting Rights of Rich Vacationers? Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, I’m rich as Hell and I wanna VOTE!



DePatie Residence (town photo)
DePatie told a story about a time years ago when he was running for the state House of Representatives and lost by 270 votes. He said he lost because of the overwhelming number of votes against him from Block Island, where, according to DePatie, out-of-state vacationers are allowed to vote.

Interesting story, and one that we’ve actually covered – that Block Island, as well as Westerly and Jamestown, have more registered voters than permanent residents 18 or older. But it’s not because the Town of New Shoreham (Block Island) gave permission – they didn’t – it’s because some towns are lax in allowing ineligible persons to register.

There are scattered places around the country where nonresident property owners are given some limited franchise – in Connecticut, nonresidents may attend fiscal town meetings but may not vote in a town fiscal election unless the town authorizes it. Under no circumstances may nonresidents vote for candidates for public office.

Perhaps Mr. DePatie should have filed a voting fraud complaint with the Board of Elections over those phantom Block Island voters, since there was no legal authority for nonresidents to vote the way he described.

Then I wondered why Mr. DePatie brought this issue up. After getting screwed by nonresident voting, why is he advocating nonresident voting in Charlestown?

Oh, wait a minute. I get it! DePatie wants to register a bunch of his nonresident Charlestown millionaire friends to counterbalance Block Island’s illegal voting bloc so he can make another run for state Rep! As it stands, Charlestown currently requires those seeking to register to properly document their residency.


Tea Party agrees with DePatie

As Mr. DePatie said at the Citizens Forum, the issue of voting rights for nonresidents has been kicking around for more than 10 years. Does DePatie’s presentation mean the RI Statewide Coalition and CCA plan to make this a 2012 election issue? RISC has already starting blitzing the Westerly Sun with letters to the editor.


Rhode Island history and tradition strongly oppose granting the right to vote based on property ownership. Rhode Island inherited the system of tying franchise to property from the King’s Royal Charter in 1663. The Dorr Rebellion of 1843 was an uprising by Rhode Island working people who wanted to vote but did not own property. Even though the state militia crushed the Dorr Rebellion, the state Constitution was changed to eliminate the link between voting rights and property.

That established the principle in Rhode Island law that voting is based on residence, not property ownership. Let’s remember that our rich summer vacation visitors actually live somewhere else. They presumably pay their income taxes somewhere else. They presumably are already registered to vote somewhere else.

Nonetheless, now in the 21st century come the landed gentry who believe their multi-million-dollar McMansions on the coast entitle them to take control of the town.

Those of us who make Charlestown our true and permanent homes should remember that during the summer months, our population triples as the summer vacationers flood in. To the CCA, these look like a great untapped voting constituency for their agenda.

Council Vice-President Dan Slattery (who is also CCA’s former President) asked DePatie several supportive though leading questions to get DePatie to expand on his voting rights plea. What kinds of things should out-of-state vacationers be allowed to vote on, asked Slattery.

The main example DePatie gave was the recent vote on beach facilities! As we reported in the “Voices of Greed” series, the positions taken by CCA’s anonymous legions were overwhelmingly against building decent toilet facilities at the beaches. A classic one: “the beaches, oh our beaches. they have been working just fine as they are. beautiful and basic. and the costs associated with them are manageable. i don't find the facilities shameful. we use ours at home, and if we have to, we use the units that are there. everywhere we go on vacation, we use the beaches that have basic facilities and we go back every year. leave them alone!”

And the CCA wants to give these people the right to vote?

Author: Will Collette