Testimony from respondent and his former neighbors support his claim that he intended to move from his old house to a new house in South Riding, Va., when he changed his voter registration and driver’s license in April 2011, and although his wife still maintains a secure office at their old house, a Loudoun County Circuit Court finds respondent has changed his domicile and is eligible to vote and run for the House of Delegates in the 87th District.
In Williams v. Commonwealth, 116 Va. 272 (1914), the Virginia Supreme Court found that when a person leaves his original residence and adopts a new residence his first residence is lost but when a person leaves his original residence with the intention of returning to the original residence then the original residence continues. The court said to acquire a new residence, there must be both act and intention.
Consistent with a 2010 opinion by the Virginia Department of Taxation on domicile, the State Board of Elections Policy 2009-005 provides that once a person has established domicile, establishing a new domicile requires that he intentionally abandon his old domicile. With respect to intent, the policy also provides that a person abandons his old domicile. With respect to intent, the policy also provides that a person who applies to register to vote in a precinct for the primary purpose of registering to vote or voting in that precinct has not established the intent to establish domicile there.
Although the residence of a spouse may be a factor to consider in determining a voter’s domicile, it is important to note that spouses may maintain different domiciles.
Here, the evidence reflects that David Ramadan owns two houses located in South Riding, Va., one located at 25601 Quits Pond Court and another located at 25591 America Square. Special Agent Anthony Royall testified that a white SUV, the car Ramadan most often drives, was parked at the America Square house when he visited the house around 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and that Ramadan came out of the America Square house around 2:30 p.m. to speak with Agent Royall. Agent Royall testified he did not see any vehicles in the driveway at the Quits Pond house.
Four neighbors at the Quits Pond house testified they have not seen Ramadan at the Quits Pond house since April 2011 and have seen him in the neighborhood only once since April at a block party on the July 4, 2011, weekend. One neighbor testified she saw a moving van outside the Quits Pond house.
A custodian of records for the Virginia DMV testified she prepared a driver history record for petitioner’s counsel. The record reflects that Ramadan has a white SUV registered at the America Square address and that Ramadan changed the address on his driver’s license on April 2, 2011, from the Quits Pond address to the America Square Address.
The court finds that David Ramadan has met his burden of establishing that he is now domiciled at the America Square address and that house is his place of abode. The evidence shows he left the Quits Pond address intending to abandon that home as his domicile. Ramadan testified he has not spent a night in the Quits Pond house since April, his former neighbors have not seen him at the Quits Pond house since April and have only seen him in the neighborhood once since April, and the DMV records reflect a change of address.
Ramadan’s testimony that he bought the America Square house in 2008 with the intention of moving to that house, which is supported by the decline in the real estate market, the care with which the house was furnished and the fact that Ramadan has maintained an office at the house. Although running as a candidate for the 87th District of the House of Delegates provided motivation for Ramadan to complete his original intention to move to the America Square house, it was not the raison d’etre for the change of domiciles.
In sum, the Constitution mandates that where one lawfully votes in the commonwealth is controlled by their intent and place of habitation. The court finds the testimony of Ramadan is credible and the facts support his expressed intent to abandon his old, and acquire a new, domicile in early April of this year.
The court finds petitioners’ challenge to the voter registration filed by Ramadan and declines to cancel the registration.
Dixon v. Va. State Board of Elections (Horne) No. 69285, Sept. 16, 2011; Loudoun County Cir.Ct.; Jonathon Moseley, Charles L. King, Jason Torchinsky, Alexander Francuzenko; C. Nicole Gilliam, AAG, for the parties. VLW 011-8-182, 6 pp.