TEWKSBURY, MA — During a recent review of the voting histories of the eight candidates vying for the open 19th Middlesex State Representative seat, Wilmington Apple noticed something strange.
Selectman Mark Kratman (D-Tewksbury) moved to Tewksbury in February 2002. For the next 11 years, Kratman continued to vote exclusively in Boston elections until January 2013, at which time Kratman registered to vote in Tewksbury.
During that 11-year stretch (2002-2013), Kratman participated in 18 elections as a Boston voter while a resident of Tewksbury. And, as a result, also during that stretch, Kratman did not vote in any Tewksbury town elections (annual or special) or Tewksbury town meetings (annual or special), nor did he vote for any of Tewksbury’s county, state or federal legislative delegations (aside from U.S. Senators).
Tewksbury Town Clerk Denise Graffeo provided Kratman’s voting history document to Wilmington Apple. The applicable portion is below:
Kratman also provided Wilmington Apple with a copy of Kratman’s voter registration form from 2013.
Kratman does not dispute the voting history.
“Yes, I was taking care of my mother and had to go to the house [in Boston] that we owned everyday,” Kratman told Wilmington Apple.
Kratman’s mother Virginia lived at 256 Leyden Street in East Boston. It was the home Mark grew up in. Virginia passed away on January 4, 2011. The home was sold thereafter, apparently in February 2013.
(NOTE: For the sake of accuracy over the date of the sale, I’m including the deed below from the Suffolk Registry of Deeds. The deed was originally dated November 2012, received in February 2013, and marked up as either February 2012 or February 2014. Further note, Janet Nolan Bunnell, the Administrator of Virginia’s estate, is one of Mark’s sister. Mark’s name does not appear on any of the property documents Wilmington Apple reviewed, including the mortgage for the home. According to Mark, he did help his mother financially and had made payments towards the mortgage.)
Kratman voted in Boston three times after his mother’s death. Going by the February 2013 “received” date on the deed below, he did not vote in Boston after the sale of his mother’s house.
Is What Mark Did Wrong?
Wilmington Apple reached out to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division for comment.
“I don’t know the details of what his residency are. That’s the point of the challenge process,” Debra O’Malley, Spokesperson for Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s Office told Wilmington Apple. “[Kratman] would have had to have been challenged by another registered voter who submitted compelling evidence to the Boston Election Commission. Then there’s a hearing that then would have taken place and the Commission would have looked at evidence from both the person bringing the challenge and the person being challenged.”
“[The issue] of where you vote is not always cut and dry,” continued O’Malley. “You’d look at where your home base is, where you intend to return to, where you lay your head at night, and where you have ties to, but not necessarily all of those things. Any and all evidence offered would need to be examined…. But voters should be voting at their primary residence.”
O’Malley noted that, according to how she understood the facts as Wilmington Apple told them to her, Kratman CANNOT be challenged now and brought in front of the Boston Election Commission for any past votes.
“If no one is questioning his current situation, he can’t be challenged now,” she stated.
When asked if this was a case of “voter fraud,” O’Malley responded that the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office does not make those determinations, and only refers such matters to other agencies.
“In any instance, the only ones that could bring voter fraud charges would by the District Attorney, the [Massachusetts] Attorney General, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said O’Malley.
Wilmington Apple also reviewed pertinent language on the Secretary of State’s website and Massachusetts General Laws.
According to the Secretary of State’s Election Division’s website:
“You must update your voter registration every time you move. If you have moved, you may update your registration by filling out a new voter registration form. If you move after the deadline to register to vote in a state election or primary, you should wait to update your registration until after the date of the election or primary, and return to vote at your previous polling place in Massachusetts. State law allows you to vote from a previous address in a state election for up to six month after you have moved, as long as you have not registered elsewhere.”
“State law allows voters who have moved within Massachusetts to vote in state elections and primaries from a previous address for up to six months, as long as they have not registered at a new address. If you have moved from one community in Massachusetts to another, and you have not registered to vote at your new address, you may vote at your previous polling place. Please note that this does not apply to local elections.”
Massachusetts General Law (Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 51, Section 1) addresses the qualifications of voters:
“Section 1. Every citizen eighteen years of age or older, not being a person under guardianship or incarcerated in a correctional facility due to a felony conviction, and not being temporarily or permanently disqualified by law because of corrupt practices in respect to elections, who is a resident in the city or town where he claims the right to vote at the time he registers, and who has complied with the requirements of this chapter, may have his name entered on the list of voters in such city or town, and may vote therein in any such election, or except insofar as restricted in any town in which a representative town meeting form of government has been established, in any meeting held for the transaction of town affairs. Notwithstanding any special law to the contrary, every such citizen who resides within the boundaries of any district, as defined in section one A of chapter forty-one, may vote for district officers and in any district meeting thereof, and no other person may so vote. A person otherwise qualified to vote for national or state officers shall not, by reason of a change of residence within the commonwealth, be disqualified from voting for such national or state officers in the city or town from which he has removed his residence until the expiration of 6 months from such removal.”
Massachusetts General Law (Part I, Title VIII, Chapter 51, Section 44) addresses the voter registration form:
“Section 44. A person seeking to register shall complete an affidavit of voter registration form as prescribed in section thirty-six, and shall sign the affidavit under the penalty of perjury. A person registering as a voter may, at the same time, establish his enrollment in a political party or political designation, as provided in section thirty-eight of chapter fifty-three, by indicating his desire to be so enrolled on the affidavit of voter registration. The affidavit of any person who provides the registrars with a copy of a court order granting protection, or evidence of residence in a protective shelter, or an affidavit signed by a chief of police or his designee that said person is entitled to have certain information withheld from the public under section 24C of chapter 265 shall not be a public record.”
Below, again, is Kratman’s voter registration form, which he filled out under the penalty of perjury. In 2013, Kratman answers “12 Adams Street, Malden, MA” as the last address at which he was registered to vote. Kratman had last voted in Malden in 1995. He did not mention the address of his mother’s house in Boston, the city he voted in from 1997 to 2012.
Additionally, according to the Malden City Clerk Office, the last Malden address that Kratman was actually registered to vote at was 114 Adams Street, not 12 Adams Street, where he lived prior to moving to 114.
The Response From Other 19th Middlesex State Rep Candidates
Wilmington Apple reached out to the other Democratic and Republican candidates in the race for comment.
“This report is extremely shocking and disappointing,” said State Rep candidate Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury). “We have one candidate who doesn’t vote, and now another who has been doing it out of town despite living here. This isn’t acceptable behavior for an average citizen, never mind for anyone who wants to be State Representative. A public official should be held to a higher standard, and this is a breach of public trust.”
All other candidates declined comment or did not respond for comment prior to this article’s deadline.
The Response From Mark Kratman
Wilmington Apple reached out to Mark Kratman for comment.
“I come from an old-fashioned Irish family and was one of six children. I was raised by my mother after I lost my father… I worked two full-time jobs to help out. Me and my brother helped pay the mortgage,” said Kratman. “One of my sisters moved to Colorado. One moved to New Hampshire. After awhile, I was the only one around to help my mom. I never changed by voter residency when my mom got older.”
“Even though I bought a house in Tewksbury, I was a partial owner of my mother’s house. If something happened to my mother, I would be the caregiver. I would be the beneficiary,” continued Kratman. “I went there every single day until the day she passed. I’d bring her her groceries. I’d snow blow the driveway. I did this. I did that…. She never wanted to leave that house. She was so attached to it. She didn’t want to be placed in a nursing home. She didn’t want to move up to Tewksbury and live in an in-law apartment I was thinking about adding to my home. I’m very proud I didn’t put my mother in a nursing home.”
“Once my mother passed, I registered to vote in Tewksbury,” said Kratman, who noted he never missed a state election during his entire voting career, or a town election since he began voting in Tewksbury.
“If someone wants to call me out for helping my mother, God bless them!,” added Kratman. “This is not what people want to hear. This is why we have 8%-9% voter turnout. No one wants to hear these negative stories. People want to hear about what candidates can do to improve their community.”
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