TRURO — On the first night of hearings on dozens of voter challenges, the board of registrars struck three names from the town’s rolls but upheld the registrations of five others. All of the board’s votes were unanimous.
The hearings continued on Tuesday and may take several more sessions to work through all the cases.
All of the challenged voters who appeared on Monday at the community center were represented by Donna Brewer or Andrew Bettinelli, lawyers with Harrington Heep, a Wellesley firm that specializes in municipal law. Brewer said that Harrington Heep was representing “about 27” of the challenged voters.
Brewer declined to say whether the Truro Part-Time Resident Taxpayers Association (TPRTA) had been involved in retaining her. But she disputed the idea that the TPRTA board had done anything illegal.
“To the extent that anyone is trying to suggest that get-out-the-vote campaigns are improper or somehow wrong, that could not be further from the truth,” Brewer said. “There is absolutely nothing wrong about anybody encouraging people to vote.” She said that the TPRTA condoning temporary registration changes would be an “incorrect reading” of the organization’s emails to its members.
Raphael Richter had filed 66 challenges. “The data clearly shows that something strange is afoot in Truro when it comes to voter registration, especially so close to a special town meeting,” he said.
Brewer assailed “the weaknesses of the particular types of proof that Mr. Richter is relying on to try to disenfranchise over 50 people.” Not being on the street list, Brewer said, “means nothing.” Mailing addresses, she said, “are nothing more than a convenience.”
Richter’s challenge of Susan Rocca included four pieces of evidence: not appearing on the annual street listing in Truro, paying personal property tax and not excise tax here, and that when she registered to vote on Aug. 12, she did so with a Boston mailing address.
“After more than a decade of homeownership in Truro, in May of this year, I completed the transition from part-time to full-time resident,” Rocca told the registrars.
She provided records from the Registry of Motor Vehicles for vehicles garaged at her house on Fishermans Road. Her personal property tax payments, Rocca said, “are likely a holdover from 2012, when we purchased the house and lived here mostly part-time.”
Rocca described her ties to the town. “We have spent more than a decade preparing our home in Truro for our retirement,” she said.
Rocca and her husband moved their belongings to Truro this May, she said; she provided a receipt from a moving company. Rocca said she has been volunteering at the Truro Food Pantry and Truro Community Kitchen and has records of at least 47 trips to Provincetown and Orleans supermarkets since May, the same month she became vice president of the Cranberry Hill Homeowners Association.
In a declaration of homestead made just over a year ago, Richter said, Rocca had named Boston her primary residence.
“The paperwork appears that she’s been very involved throughout most of the year here,” said registrar Julie Cataldo.
“I’m slightly bothered by the homestead, but I realize that all this paperwork is a process and you’ve only been at this for several months,” said registrar Heather Harper. “All the other evidence shows me that, for at least now, this is your primary residence.”
“Removing someone from the voter roll is a serious thing that we do not take lightly, and we really need to have definitive proof,” said chair Elisabeth Verde, who moved dismissal of the challenge.
The board also upheld the registration of Diedra Dietter, who registered to vote on Sept. 8 with a mailing address in Farmington, Conn. Dietter said her family began spending more time at their Truro home when the Covid pandemic hit.
“We love this town; we’re so very happy to be here,” Dietter said. She described her ties to the Outer Cape, which included memberships at the Provincetown Theater, Pamet Yacht and Tennis Club, Payomet, Mass Audubon, and Truro Vineyards “six out of the last seven years.” She also described organizations she contributes to financially.
“I think this is the most definitive: I switched my hairdresser to Orleans last year,” Dietter said, to chuckles from the crowd.
Rosemary Boyle was among the three voters struck from the rolls. She was not present due to a medical appointment, according to her ex-husband, Brian Boyle, who testified under oath in her place.
Richter’s evidence included Boyle’s paying personal property tax in Truro, lack of excise tax payments here, the residential tax exemption she claims on her Boston condo, and her declaration of homestead at her Boston address.
Brian Boyle addressed the tax issues by saying Rosemary “continues to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s of her primary residency status.” He described her Truro library and Wellfleet gym memberships and support for local charitable organizations and presented several framed family photos as evidence, including a portrait of their children on a Truro beach. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” he said.
“Truro has always been Rosemary’s North Star, the center of her spiritual world,” he said.
He said Rosemary had lived here full-time since 2020. Verde had retrieved her voter history, which showed that she had been voting in Weston or Boston until Nov. 8, 2022. When Verde asked what prompted Rosemary to change her registration this year, Brian said, “I think the thing that really tipped the scales for her was when she saw the recount happen this year and realized that a single vote could make a difference in Truro.”
“Just to clarify,” Verde said, “a single vote counts anywhere, and it should be in the town that you live in.”
Since registering to vote, Rosemary had submitted paperwork to appear on the street listing and to cancel her Boston RTE. Because those documents are dated as recently as Nov. 2, Richter called them “remedial.”
Richter questioned Boyle’s lack of a sworn statement. “I’m just not sure how much you can trust a statement from a voter who has not appeared, not signed a statement, and is not here to be cross-examined or answer any questions from the board,” he said.
Town Manager Darrin Tangeman said that counsel had advised the registrars that challenged registrants could have testimony delivered by attorneys or family members.
“I think it’s clear that Ms. Boyle is intending to make this her primary residence,” said Verde. “I question whether it was at the beginning of October.”
“It feels like the process was: change voter registration and then change other things almost to prove that after the fact,” said Cataldo.
The board unanimously voted to remove Boyle from the rolls.
On Monday, the board also removed Gonzalo Castro and Joan Boratis from the voter list. Boratis was in Florida, so her hearing could be reopened when she returns.
In addition to Rocca’s and Dietter’s registrations, they upheld those of Karen Kinsella, Roberta Kinsella, and Gail Pisapio. After Pisapio’s registration was upheld, Richter withdrew his challenge of her husband, Lawrence Pisapio.
As of Nov. 3, 20 of the 66 voters challenged by Raphael Richter had switched their registrations out of Truro. Richter had withdrawn three challenges.