OSWPCA: Sunshine / MEMORANDUM to Town Clerk from Town Counsel re Who can vote - 8Jul09

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                       MEMORANDUM

TO:    SARAH BECKER, TOWN CLERK OF OLD SAYBROOK

FROM:  MICHAEL E. CRONIN, JR.,
       TOWN COUNSEL OF THE TOWN OF OLD SAYBROOK

DATED: JULY 8, 2009

You have asked me to answer certain questions with regard to the right to vote at a Town Meeting. The statute which establishes this is Section 7-6 of the General Statutes of Connecticut, a copy of which is attached hereto as "Exhibit A". The important points to understand about this section are as follows:

1. If a person is an "elector" duly enrolled by the Registrar of the Town of Old Saybrook, that person is eligible to vote at Town Meeting.

2. If a person is not an "elector", that person may vote at Town Meeting if that person is "liable to the town, district or subdivision for taxes against him of an assessment of not less than $1,000.00 on the last completed grand list of such town ..." This part of the statute has three requirements, which are as follows:

    a)   The person must be a citizen of the United States;

    b)   The person must be 18 years or more in age; and

    c)   The person must be jointly or severally liable to 
         the Town for taxes assessed against him of an 
         assessment of not less than $1,000.00 on the last 
         completed Grand List of such town.

The third requirement for voting has been the subject of controversy for a period of time. In my opinion, the requirement for ownership of property must be that the ownership is in that person's individual name. It cannot be in the name of a trust, Limited Liability Company, corporation, or any other such entity, even if the person claiming the right to vote is the full 100% ownership of any of those entities. Also, the question might arise as to who is entitled to vote when the property is owned by two or more persons, with one of those individuals having a life use of the premises. My opinion on this is that only the person with the exclusive life use would have the right to vote. The holder of the remainderman interest in the property (i.e. those persons who would own the property outright if the life use tenancy dies), would not have the right to vote because under Connecticut law, a remainderman is not personally responsible to the Town for a tax bill in this instance.

Another question which has arisen is what happens when property is owned by more than one person, and one of those persons does not actually appear on the Assessor"s list as the owner. Such other ownership is commonly shown on the list as being "et al". It is my opinion that that "et al" person has the right to vote, even though that person's name is not on the Assessor's list. If this question should arise, it would be appropriate to have a mechanism available so that the Assessor's office or the Town Clerk's office can verify ownership by that individual. Also, an Affidavit by that person as to ownership might well suffice to qualify that person to vote.

The minimum requirement for voting is a $1,000.00 tax assessment. If there are multiple owners of the asset, you would divide the total assessment by the number of owners, and if the voter has a resulting value of more than $1,000.00, he or she is eligible to vote. If the value is less than $1,000.00, even though the assessment of the property is greater than that figure, that person does not have the right to vote. (For example - If a motor vehicle is assessed in two person's names, for a value of $2,000.00 or more, both would be entitled to vote. However, if the motor vehicle is assessed for $1,500.00, and there are two owners, neither one is entitled to vote).

If you have any further questions regarding the above, please call.

                              (signed)
                              Michael E Cronin, Jr.,
                              Town Counsel
                              Town of Old Saybrook

(Attachment)

Exhibit A:

§ 7-6. Eligibility to vote

At any town meeting other than a regular or special town election or at any meeting of any fire, sewer or school district or any other municipal subdivision of any town incorporated by any special act, any person who is an elector of such town may vote and any citizen of the United States of the age of eighteen years or more who, jointly or severally, is liable to the town, district or subdivision for taxes assessed against him on an assessment of not less than one thousand dollars on the last-completed grand list of such town, district or subdivision, or who would be so liable if not entitled to an exemption under subdivision (17), (19), (22), (23), (25) or (26) of section 12-81, may vote, unless restricted by the provisions of any special act relating to such town, district or subdivision.