Whether they gave the nod to John McCain, Barack Obama, or another candidate, FMCA members Ron and Leone Teel, F242034, finally had the right to vote returned to them in time for the November 2008 presidential election.
The Teels were among more than 250 full-time RVers dropped from Tennessee voting rolls in 2006 based on a state law that prohibits residents from using a commercial address for their voter registration.
In September 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Bradley County Election Commission reached an agreement that allowed the Teels to use the address of the parking lot of a mail forwarding service to register to vote.
“At no time did we think that our choice to live and travel in an RV would require us to give up our right to vote,” Mr. Teel said in October. “Because of the help of ACLU-Tennessee, we can now vote in November and have our voices heard in this election.”
Attempts at resolution
The Teels became residents of Tennessee in 2001, using the address of Mail Call, U.S.A., a mail forwarding service in Cleveland, Tennessee. In 2003 they disclosed their full-timer status and the nature of their address to the election commission, and their request for voter registration was approved. They voted in the 2004 general election, using the mail forwarding address for voter registration purposes.
In February 2006 they were notified that their names would be purged from the voting rolls based on a new state law barring the use of commercial addresses for voter registration. In an attempt at a prompt resolution, the Teels offered to change their residency address to the parking lot of their mail forwarding service. “A provision in the law, one that is normally applied to homeless persons, allows for such addresses to be claimed,” Mr. Teel said. “Our offer was ignored by the county, and later ignored by the state.”
Over the next 16 months they tried to resolve the issue administratively, exchanging letters and phone calls with local and state officials. “They did not consider us residents,” Mr. Teel said. “As one told us, “˜You are full-timers. Therefore, you do not live anywhere, and since you do not live anywhere, you do not live here, and you must live here in order to vote.'”
The state considered them residents for drivers license purposes. The county considered them residents for vehicle registration purposes. The federal government considered them residents for tax and census purposes. “Virtually everyone we met, whether through business or social, considered us residents,” Mr. Teel said. “Even one of our elected representatives referred to us as members of “˜our hometown.'”
Lacking the resources and expertise to file a lawsuit, the Teels and another full-
timer, Tom Layton, contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. In November 2007, ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the 2006 law violated RVers’ equal protection and due process rights.
The court dismissed the case but acknowledged alternative ways for the Teels and Mr. Layton to restore their right to vote while maintaining their right to travel and their autonomy to choose where they live.
What changed, since the federal case dismissal, that now enables the Teels to vote?
“The federal judge who dismissed our case had said that we obviously cannot live in a mailbox located inside the mail forwarding service building, but that we could live out on the parking lot,” Mr. Teel said. “So, we reregistered to vote, claiming the location where we lived was on the parking lot outside of the building, a distance of a few feet.” (The same idea they had proposed two years earlier.)
Second, they secured an affidavit from the tenant of the property, attesting that they are not trespassing on private property by parking there.
In approving the Teels’ voter status, the county election commission acknowledged that full-time RVers can be local residents, even when traveling outside the state for long periods. “The county would prefer that full-time RVers who have become Tennessee residents use one of the local RV campgrounds as their voter registration address,” Mr. Teel said. “But RVers have the option of using a parking lot as an address, as we did.”
As for the others . . .
Mr. Teel noted that their lawsuit was not a class action. “While the resolution of our status established a template for others to use, it did not automatically restore voting status to the remaining RVers who were purged. They must take action to reregister to vote.”
The Teels are glad their voting rights case is finally closed, and they’re grateful to ACLU-Tennessee. “The quality of their legal staff, especially the primary lawyer assigned to our case, was top-notch,” Mr. Teel said. “We now have our voting rights restored because of their effort. Without them, we would still be disenfranchised.”
Consignment Fraud By Canadian RV Dealer
A former Ontario, Canada, RV dealer recently was convicted on charges he stole more than $2 million from customers who left their motorhomes and trailers to be sold on consignment at his dealership.
Donald Earle, 58, would sell the unit, keep the money, and never tell the new buyers that a lien, if any, still existed on the vehicle.
According to the Barrie Examiner, Mr. Earle pled guilty in September to 190 counts of fraud and received a three-year prison sentence. He admitted he pilfered the money from 2001 to 2005 at his dealership, called Barrie RV.
Many of the victims were elderly and had their life savings wrapped up in motorhomes worth up to $100,000, the Examiner reported. Some victims had fallen ill and were trying to sell their RVs because they couldn’t keep up with the payments.
Mr. Earle, who is considered a first-time offender of a nonviolent crime, will be eligible to apply for work-release parole after serving about six months, the Examiner stated.
More Caveats For Consignment Sellers
Speaking of consignment sales, the August 2008 issue of FMC contained an article about insurance coverage for your coach while it is under consignment (“A Caveat For Consignment Sellers,” page 50). Owen B. McCullen, F372245, a retired attorney from Junction City, Oregon, contacted FMCA regarding legal points not covered in the article. “Insurance may be the least of their worries,” Mr. McCullen noted. Below are excerpts from his comments.
“I had three cases involving consignments that were emotionally devastating and financially destructive to my former clients. Each case involved the consignment of a motorhome to a licensed dealer. The dealer sold all three motorhomes, never paid the owners, and went bankrupt. The end result was that all three owners lost their motorhomes, got no money, and in two of the cases still had substantial loans unpaid.
“The bottom line is this: Be aware that when you consign a motorhome, you are allowing the dealer to convey clear title to the motorhome. If you are not paid, your only recourse is to sue the dealer. If the dealer is gone or legally bankrupt, you have no practical recourse. Of course, the risk of insurance is still there, too.
“If you intend to consign a motorhome, I suggest contacting a local attorney in the area of the dealership who is familiar with commercial transactions and get a written opinion of your rights if the dealer sells your motorhome and does not pay you. This is especially important if there is still a significant secured loan against the motorhome, or if you intend to commit the sale proceeds legally somewhere else before you receive them.
“Another wise step would be to get the lender to agree to the consignment in return for repayment of their loan. This may be practically difficult, but small lenders and credit unions have a history of working with their borrowers, while larger banking institutions seldom exhibit similar cooperativeness.”