The Romney Effect: The Rumor That Just Won't Die
In the final installment of The Romney Effect, we ask Belmont's town clerk for her thoughts on charges that the Romneys don't really live in town.
Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman comes to the counter of the Town Clerk's office with a thick file in a standard folder.
The name "Romney" is written on the flap.
Inside is every scrap of paper that the clerk's office has attesting that Mitt and Anne Romney has been living in the town since first moving into a colonial at 8 Tyler Road in 1972, four decades ago.
"This is interesting," said Cushman, who has been town clerk for the past 2-1/2 years but a resident for more than 20. "He's coming up to his anniversary date of becoming a voter – Aug. 31, 1976."
With so much information and data on Romney in his 40 years as a resident in the "Town of Homes," Cushman has the ability to provide the answers to anyone who is curious about the Republican candidate for president's public life in Belmont.
So, why don't they ask?
In recent months, various left-leaning websites and publications have alleged that the Romneys are either voter scofflaws or tax cheats by fraudulently informing state and federal agencies that their home was in Belmont when they supposedly abandoned the Boston suburb for one of their many other homes around the country.
Yet in many of those articles, there is not one mention that anyone attempted to speak with the gatekeeper of the Romney file in Belmont's Town Hall.
"I would think that anyone doing a story about Mitt Romney's residency would come to the primary source, and that's me," said Cushman, leafing through her file.
Just when it seemed the tsunami of articles on Romney's so-called "voter fraud" had faded from view, last week another article surfaced, this time from the British publication, "The Guardian."
This vampire of allegations, it is the story that will not die.
The first allegation surfaced in late May and exploded in June: Mitt Romney, the man who only two months before had sealed up the Republican presidential nomination, had committed voter fraud.
The story originated from former Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, who claimed that when Romney sold his manse on Marsh Street in 2009, he gave up his residency in Belmont and thus transferred it to another of his homes in New Hampshire or a recently purchased home in La Jolla, Calif.
Karger theorized that when Romney and his wife voted for Scott Brown to replace the late Ted Kennedy in the senate in January, 2010, he did so illegally. He even filed a formal complaint with the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's Office claiming Romney was not a Massachusetts or Belmont resident when he voted for Brown.
The issue finally appeared to have died down, at least until the Guardian resurrected it last week.
"So here's the question: did Romney put his son's basement's address on the returns he filed in 2009 and 2010? Or did he truthfully use his real (non-Massachusetts) address, thus implicating himself in voter fraud?" MS Bellows Jr. asked in his piece for the Guardian.
While Bellows' story included links to numerous earlier stories and studies, one source he did not attempt to contact was the person with first-hand knowledge of Romney's current declared hometown.
"Never heard of him," Cushman said of Bellows.
If Bellows had called her, Cushman would have shown him the two signed letters from Mitt Romney declaring that he was changing his Belmont voting address from Marsh Street to Greenbrook Way in May 2009, and then to his present home on South Cottage Road.
Nor does it appear that Romney has attempted to change his official residency since 2008. According to Rosemary Norling at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Romney is not and never has been a registered voter in San Diego County. Romney owns a $12 million home in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego.
While Romney is reported to spend considerable time in his other homes, Cushman said that's not unusual behavior for Belmont residents.
"Unlike Florida, which requires a resident to spend six months in the state to become a resident, Massachusetts does not have residency requirements," she said.
The state of Massachusetts doesn't seem to have any interest in pursuing the challenges.
"The time to challenge a person's residency is before the election, not after," said Brian McNiff, spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, back in June.
McNiff added that it is the responsibility of the town's Board of Registrars to determine if a person can register to vote in Belmont, a board which Cushman serves on.