TRURO — The board of registrars heard appeals on Nov. 17 from two people who had been removed from the town’s voter rolls after not showing up for hearings at which their status as residents, and therefore legitimately registered voters, was challenged.
About 30 such hearings were held in early November, and 14 voters were removed from the rolls. At least 21 others have given up their voter registrations voluntarily since an effort to persuade part-time residents to vote here was discovered.
At Rosemary Boyle’s appeal hearing last week, the registrars reversed their Nov. 6 decision and reinstated Boyle.
Rose Bayani was not reinstated, however, and will remain unable to vote at Truro’s special town meeting, now rescheduled for Nov. 28.
Town Moderator Paul Wisotzky used his authority under state law to continue the meeting for the third time on Nov. 16. “I do know these postponements have caused inconvenience and frustration for many,” Wisotzky said. “Ensuring that no appropriately registered Truro voter is excluded from voting at the meeting is of utmost importance to all of us.”
About a dozen people protested Wisotzky’s latest postponement, one clad in a sash reading “voter suppression.” The group waited for Wisotzky to stop speaking and then read simultaneously from notecards their objection — that Wisotzky had improperly convened the Nov. 16 meeting without a quorum of voters and therefore could not postpone it.
Under state law, in order for an appeal hearing to be held, the challenged voter needs to offer “an acceptable explanation of why she or he did not appear” during the initial hearing. Bayani said she hadn’t appeared at the previous hearing because the constable’s summons was missing her unit number and was delivered to a neighbor.
Raphael Richter, the voter who had challenged 66 new voter registrations before the original town meeting date of Oct. 21, presented the same evidence that the registrars had accepted earlier. Bayani pays personal property tax in Truro (which is levied only on nonresidents) but not vehicle excise tax (which is levied only on residents); isn’t on the town’s street listing; and has declared her homestead in Boston, where she also claims a residential tax exemption. She registered to vote in Truro on Sept. 5.
In her response, Bayani said that her Jeep is garaged in Truro and presented insurance documentation. She also said she was not sure what personal property tax was for. “I just paid it annually, so it didn’t come back to bite me,” she said. “It was too small to think about.”
Bayani said her ties to the community include office space she rents at the Provincetown Commons, her love of grilled cheese sandwiches at Canteen and pasta at Terra Luna, playing pickleball at Willy’s Gym, an annual pass to Truro beaches, and a Provincetown nonresident parking permit. In response to a question from registrars chair Elisabeth Verde, Bayani said she also purchases a parking pass in Boston.
Bayani also included in her testimony “an Instagram post from August last year with a video of two blue jays in my birdbath that I captioned with, ‘I am officially the neighborhood bird lady!’ ”
She described the post as evidence “that I am considered a neighbor.”
Richter asked about the address on Bayani’s driver’s license — a question to which attorney Donna Brewer objected — and Bayani said Boston. Richter then asked where Bayani files her taxes. Brewer objected again, and Bayani declined to answer.
When Richter asked whether Bayani is a member of the Truro Part-Time Resident Taxpayers Association, Brewer objected again. Bayani said, “I don’t want to answer because I’m not sure if I am or not.”
Richter presented documents from the Truro Health Dept. showing that Bayani’s condo is seasonal. Verde compared water usage data for Bayani’s condo to an “expected number” provided by Truro Health Agent Emily Beebe.
Bayani said she hoped to make her condo habitable in the winter. The board discussed the condo’s deed and whether winter occupancy would be subject to approval by her condo association or the zoning board of appeals.
“It appears that she’s made efforts to be here on a more permanent basis,” said registrar Julie Cataldo.
“We’ve talked a lot about intent in these hearings,” Verde said, adding that “there’s a difference between intending to live somewhere and actually living there and having it as your primary domicile.” Verde said that, although Bayani “may want to live here, it appears to me that most of her life is in Boston.”
Bayani’s appeal became the only hearing in which the registrars split their votes. Verde and vice chair Elizabeth Sturdy voted to keep Bayani off the voter rolls; Cataldo voted the other way. Board of registrars clerk Heather Harper was absent.
A Voter Reinstated
Rosemary Boyle said she was absent from her first hearing because she was having a plasma injection in her knee. The registrars accepted that and reopened her hearing.
Richter repeated evidence from the first hearing, including that Boyle, who registered to vote in August, pays personal property tax and not excise tax in Truro and claims a residential tax exemption in Boston, where she also declared her homestead.
“I have spent as much time in Truro in the past decades as my life would realistically allow, and now I spend the overwhelming majority of my time in Truro,” Boyle said, estimating 70 percent.
“Truro is the heart and center of my family life,” Boyle said, becoming tearful. As evidence, she offered her two children’s marriages in town, recently installed insulation at her house, and the local physical therapy and veterinary clinics where she and her dog have sought care.
Verde had obtained proof since Boyle’s previous hearing that she pays for trash pickup year-round.
Verde also presented Boyle’s voter history and read from an artist statement posted on her website: “I’ve been making art for 30+ years primarily in my Waltham, MA studio with satellite studios in Truro, MA and Santa Fe, NM.”
Boyle said she plans to cancel her residential tax exemption in Boston and apply for one in Truro — though that will be done “with consult from both my financial adviser and my accountant,” she said.
Sturdy said it seemed to her that “you intend to do things but haven’t quite done them yet.”
Boyle said she hadn’t gotten to all the paperwork but was unwavering in her sense of Truro as home. “My condo in Boston is three rooms,” she said. “My home down here is at least seven, so this is my home. Boston is my pied-à-terre, so to speak.”
The registrars ultimately voted to reinstate Boyle’s voter registration, making her eligible to vote at town meeting.
Cataldo said she was swayed by Boyle’s electric bill, which showed “steady usage throughout the year” since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We have some additional information that is more convincing than we had at the last hearing,” Verde said, citing the electric bill, home insulation, and year-round trash pickup.
“I do think it’s a process to change everything when you move,” Verde concluded. “This has probably been a great reminder to get on that.”