Mayor candidate contends Urbanna is her ‘domicile’
by Tom Chillemi
Urbanna mayor candidate Janet H. Smith was arrested on October 2 and charged with a felony for filing “false statements” on an election candidate form.
The arrest warrant states that on June 12, 2012 Smith made “a false material statement” that “constitutes the crime of election fraud.”
Smith still is on the Town of Urbanna election ballot running against incumbent mayor Donald Richwine. The election date is November 6.
On Tuesday, October 9, Smith held a meeting at Cafe Mojo in Urbanna to explain why she still considers herself to be a valid candidate.
Smith obtained a 2-page affidavit filed in Middlesex General District Court by Virginia State Police special agent Jennifer S. Brown, the officer who investigated and charged Smith.
Smith released Brown’s affidavit to the Southside Sentinel and discussed it freely at the meeting.
In her affidavit, Brown wrote, “The law states that a candidate must be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia for one year preceding the election.”
The charge stems from the fact that Smith submitted a certificate of candidate qualifications to Middlesex voter registrar Eileen Howard on June 12, 2012. On the form Smith listed her address as 131 Cross St., Urbanna. Smith signed the form and certified “I have been a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the year immediately preceding the election for the office I am seeking.”
Brown alleges that Smith has not been a “resident” of Urbanna for the required year.
Brown’s affidavit states that Smith registered to vote in Caldwell County, N.C., in October 2011 and her voter registration in Middlesex was cancelled on October 19, 2011. “North Carolina State Board of Elections requires an individual to establish residency for 30 days to vote and run for political office,” states the affidavit.
On Tuesday, Smith explained to the 15-plus people who attended her meeting that she maintained her “domicile” in Urbanna while she was living in Lenoir, N.C. “I went to North Carolina to start a business, not because I wanted to create a domicile or residence, with the intent of coming back here (to Urbanna) to live,” said Smith, who also noted she has lived in Middlesex since 2004.
She pointed out that people often have two homes, such as a winter home in a warmer climate, and they may choose which one is their domicile.
“I operated within the law for the community I was in by saying I have a ‘residence’ there,” said Smith. “If I had said this is my ‘domicile’ that is a whole different ball game [and would mean] that’s where I intended to live.”
Virginia Code section 24.2-101 states, in part: “ ‘Residence’ or ‘resident,’ for all purposes of qualification to register and vote, means and requires both domicile and a place of abode. To establish domicile, a person must live in a particular locality with the intention to remain. A place of abode is the physical place where a person dwells.”
Smith also explained that she declared herself a “write-in” mayor candidate in the Lenoir, N.C., election, which occurred on November 8, 2011. She also voted in that election.
The upcoming Urbanna election is November 6, 2012—just two days shy of being a full year, Smith pointed out, and she argues that “the year” could mean from election day to election day.
Smith said she has retained an attorney and hopes to have the charges dismissed before the election.