The Nantucket Board of Registrars will decide Sunday whether former Nantucket Historical Commission Chair Hillary Hedges Rayport is qualified to vote on Nantucket after a formal complaint was filed by Linda Williams on October 31.
Williams alleges that Rayport should not be allowed to register as a Nantucket voter because she is a seasonal resident and does not live on the island year-round.
Three members of Nantucket's Board of Registrars - Nancy Holmes, Carolyn Gould and Janet Coffin - met Friday and unanimously agreed that the complaint warranted an official hearing on the matter in which both Rayport and Williams will have the opportunity to speak and submit further information to justify their respective cases.
That hearing will take place on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. A final decision on Rayport’s voter status will be made then, just two days before Nantucket's Special Town Meeting.
Williams argued in her complaint that state law makes it clear that seasonal voters should not be permitted to vote in their seasonal communities and that registering to do so could be “actionable by legal authorities.”
“Ms. Rayport has no ties to the community other than a seasonal home, and interfering in how this town operates,” Williams claimed. “Illegally registering to vote to further her goals should not be encouraged, and remedial action should be taken immediately to rectify this situation.”
State law regarding voter eligibility for those with multiple residences has been addressed by the Secretary of State's election division. In an advisory that was updated in 2017, Secretary of State William Galvin wrote:
"Although some voters may live in more than one community, they can have only one legal residence," Galvin wrote. "That residence is the place where the facts show they intend to make their home according to the basic principles discussed earlier. It is not true that people who live part of the time in different places may simply pick one of them as their legal residence. Rather, residence is determined by examining all the factual circumstances which indicate where their home actually is. Although the relative amount of time people live in various places is not conclusive, it is an important factor to be considered. It is unlikely that many people will have their homes in a community where they live only during the summer months."
In Williams 15-page complaint, she provides documents pertaining to Rayport’s water bills – which she says show evidence of “large gaps of little to no usage” in the offseason but typical usage in the summer months of June, July, and August.
“There is a clear cyclical pattern of summer usage and then little consistent water usage for most of the year, indicating that there is no required residential use of the property to support a claim that Ms. Rayport is a “year-round” resident to in turn support a claim that she would qualify for registration as a voter under state laws,” Williams says in the complaint.
Williams also provides information from various online platforms and websites that indicate Rayport identifies her island home as seasonal and Boston as her primary residence. Williams also alleges that Rayport does not have a residential exemption from the Nantucket Tax Assessor’s office, her tax bills are sent to her Boston home, and provides documentation that appears to show three mortgages entered into by Rayport and her husband Jeffrey since the initial purchase of their Nantucket property in 2005 – all of which indicate the property being used as a second home.
After Gould and Coffin expressed their belief that a hearing on Rayport’s voter status was warranted after a thorough review of William’s complaint, Holmes said she agreed with the determinations of both.
Holmes did say however that Rayport having mail sent to an off-island address is “completely allowed” and that she wasn’t very concerned with the documents provided from various online platforms such as Wikipedia and LinkedIn that indicate she lives in Boston because people can go “years at a time” without looking at those. She added that she didn’t feel qualified to judge another family’s water bills and usage.
For Holmes, she said the most important thing for herself and the registrar to look at is Rayport’s tax records.
"It's about taxation and what you're claiming is your home and things like that,” Holmes said. “I just want to say that I know that Ms. Rayport sincerely loves this town, has given a lot to it, and continues to. But I also have an obligation to the complaint and to the voters.
"One of the things the state does direct us to do is to look at tax records and where someone files their income taxes, residential exemptions and such like that,” Holmes added. “To me that is the thing in here that we have to take most seriously.”
Rayport and Williams were not permitted to speak during Friday's meeting, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, but both were in attendance along with several other community members.
Rayport led the Nantucket Historical Commission, where she was charged with advising the Select Board on matters of preservation, for three years before being ousted last year by the Select Board. She helped lead the charge for the town earning its Certified Local Government (CLG) designation. She steered the commission to advocate on matters of signage, pavement and the condition of the island’s lighthouses.
But Rayport has ruffled feathers in local government over the past two years by sponsoring a citizen petition to change the makeup and structure of the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC).
In a statement submitted to Holmes prior to Friday's meeting, Rayport said that she votes on Nantucket because Nantucket is her "primary domicile" and that she has demonstrated this by owning a home and living on Nantucket over the years.
"Most importantly, I’m deeply involved in civic and community life on Nantucket," Rayport said. "I have actively voted and participated in Town Meetings for years. I have volunteered hundreds of hours as a Commissioner on the Nantucket Historical Commission and volunteered many hours as a member of the Nantucket Town Association, a chapter of the Nantucket Civic League. I regularly follow and participate in meetings of Nantucket boards and commissions. I am a member of Congregation Shirat Hayam, where my family worships during the High Holidays. I have been a member of the Coskata-Coatue property committee for over ten years. I was a Trustee of the Nantucket Atheneum for the last six years – the full term limit. I am a member of and contributor to a long list of island non-profits and community organizations of all types. In addition to being lucky enough to own a home on Nantucket, I’ve made Nantucket the center of my civic and social life."
In Secretary of State Galvin's advisory regarding residency for voting purposes, he addressed some of those factors:
"It is essential to understand that residence is an objective concept and not a subjective concept," Galvin wrote. "That is, what counts is not where someone thinks his or her residence is or wants it to be, but rather, where the objective facts show it is. Of course, a person's statements and expressed desires, especially when they are not self-serving, may be evidence of residence, because they are facts themselves. Perhaps more important, however, is evidence of a person's actions. Some of those actions may be the amount of time spent in various places; former residences and voter registrations; future plans; income taxes; bank accounts; telephone listings; places of employments; and religious, social, and political affiliations."