Ogunquit voter deemed ineligible to cast ballot, files appeal

OGUNQUIT, Maine — A voter who said she has cast ballots in 43 local elections over the past 17 years has been deemed ineligible to continue voting here, in the town she calls home.

Nancy Breen failed to prove that she actually resides in Ogunquit, according to Town Clerk Chris Murphy, who informed Breen of the decision in a letter dated July 20.

“Although the voter offered some information regarding her and her family’s use of the property at [an address on] Stearns Road, the voter did not provide any objective proof, such as a vehicle registration, tax return, mail, or driver’s license with the Stearns Road address,” Murphy said in the letter. “This lack of proof leads me to the conclusion that the voter has not offered satisfactory proof of residency for voting purposes.”

As evidence of her residency, Breen provided a copy of her driver’s license, but the address listed on that identification is a Post Office Box in Ogunquit, according to Murphy’s letter. Breen can still become eligible to vote in town if she produces adequate proof of residency, the letter notes.

Murphy’s decision comes more than eight months after Ogunquit resident Barbara Ferraro alleged at last November’s election that Breen lacks legal residency to vote in town, and it comes five months after the town held a public hearing to collect evidence about that allegation.

“When I challenged Nancy Breen’s vote, it was never personal. It was and is an issue of domicile,” Ferraro said Thursday, when asked about Murphy’s decision.

“People who live in Cape Neddick, Moody, Wells, Berwick and/or Florida, but have a business here, have a right to address issues at the Select Board,” she said. “However, domicile is still the law and the overriding factor to determine voter eligibility.”

Murphy’s decision abides by the town charter and state law, as it must, Ferraro said.

Breen, who could not be reached Thursday for comment, said during the evidentiary hearing last February that she purchased the Stearns Road house in 1996 and considers it to be her home and residence. Her siblings now co-own that property, which they have rented out for about six weeks during the summer months, she said.

Breen acknowledged that she also owns property just across the town line, in Cape Neddick, which is part of York, where she runs the Youth Enrichment Center at Hilton-Winn Farm. But she has never voted there, she said.

Breen said during the hearing that she considers voting to be a privilege and a duty, so she was “horrified” to have her eligibility challenged.

“I feel that when I went to vote in November at the Dunaway Center, my civil liberties were attacked by Barbara Ferraro, who verbally assaulted and attacked me,” Breen said. “I felt threatened by her bizarre, unbalanced behavior. I was very surprised and taken back by her insinuations and her unethical behavior.”

Ferraro, who denied the claim that she had verbally attacked Breen, said during the hearing that Breen shouldn’t take the matter personally.

“Nancy is a good person who has done a lot for this community and children at her home, the Hilton-Winn Farm,” Ferraro said. “I challenged her vote because she lives in Cape Neddick.”

Ferraro said town officials need to clarify the issue at hand because there are others who must understand that they, too, are ineligible to vote in town.

“There is a systemic problem in Ogunquit where individuals with dual addresses feel they have a right to choose at which address they desire to vote,” Ferraro said. “This is not the case. The law is very clear.”

Breen has appealed Murphy’s decision and will take the dispute before the Ogunquit Select Board, as is her right under state law, Murphy said Thursday. The law requires the selectpersons to “immediately fix a time and place for a prompt hearing,” giving the voter at least 20 days’ advance notice and allowing for witnesses to testify and present evidence.

After their hearing, the selectpersons will have the option to affirm, modify or reverse Murphy’s decision, according to the state law. They must issue their decision to the voter in writing, with information on how the voter may appeal to the Superior Court.

Breen may have an ally on the Select Board. Rick Dolliver, who was elected to the board July 14, was among the witnesses who testified on Breen’s behalf during last February’s evidentiary hearing. Dolliver said during the hearing that he has spent a lot of time on Stearns Road, where he has seen Breen day after day, year after year.

“Now, I’m not positive where Nancy or anybody else lays their head and/or sleeps with every night of the year, and I don’t think that’s anybody’s business, including our government or residents of Ogunquit. But residency is clear. Nancy Breen has been, since 2003, a resident of Ogunquit.”

Murphy said that any ballots Breen has cast are valid and were counted in the same manner as all other ballots.

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