Do you know what the first law of our land is?

Published 1:36 pm Saturday, September 8, 2012

To the Editor:

It is your right to vote in elections. If you did not have the right to vote, you would not have a Democracy.

How do I know this for a fact? I was general registrar of voters in Albemarle County several years ago. I had only been sworn in about four days when a University of Virginia professor came in to register to vote absentee ballot due to the fact that his good friend was running for an office and he wanted to vote for him as he was going to be in New Mexico on a sabbatical for a year.

Being new at my position, I called Joan Mahan, secretary for the State Board of Elections in Richmond, and told her this gentleman wanted to vote absentee ballot, but was moving to New Mexico.

She said, “Ask him if he owns a home in Albemarle County?”

He answered, “Yes and pay taxes, too.”

She said, “Ask him if he is renting his house in Albemarle County while away for a year?”

He answered in a huff, “Yes, but what does that have to do with my voting absentee ballot?”

She again asked me to ask him, “Did you rent your whole house out?”

He again said he had with a lease for a year.

She again told me to ask him, “Did you reserve in your lease that you could return to your house at will?”

He answered that he did not put that in the lease.

Her final answer was, “You cannot vote in Virginia because you will have no abode in Virginia, and you will have to register to vote in New Mexico.”

He was very upset and said, “I’ll go right now to an attorney and sue you for my right to vote!”

I immediately called the local attorney representing my position and he said, “Oh my, we’ll be in court first thing in the morning, as your right to vote must take precedence on the judge’s docket, even over an ongoing murder trial.”

So, yes, we were in court the next day. The judge asked the gentleman almost the same questions as Ms. Mahan had asked, but the judge asked more questions.

“Did you reserve a room in your house to return to at will?” he asked.

The gentleman answered that he had not. The judge’s answer was: “If you had reserved in your lease that you could return at any time to a closet, with a cot in it and one suit of clothing, then you would have an abode, but since you didn’t,” you have no legal abode and cannot vole here in Albemarle County.”

Don’t ever think. Why vote? My vote won’t make a difference. I’ve heard so many people make that statement. It is your legal right to vote as an American citizen, so do so (rain or shine), or else never complain about what is going on in Washington.

God bless America.

Rachel A. Clement