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Mar-a-Lago is taxed as a private club, not a residence. So can Trump vote as a Florida man?

By Skyler Swisher, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — President Donald Trump is planning to cast his ballot in person for the first time in Palm Beach County this weekend.

But some have questioned whether he can legally vote as a Florida man because his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach is taxed as a private club and not as a residential property. Jim Watson, a Boynton Beach resident, filed an elections fraud complaint in June challenging Trump's ability to vote in Florida, The Washington Post reported.

Trump intends to cast his ballot Saturday at one of Palm Beach County's 18 early-voting sites, White House officials said. In the two primary elections earlier this year, he voted by mail.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Link says Mar-a-Lago's zoning status is irrelevant in whether he can register to vote using that address.

"Whether a person considers that location his or her home is what matters," Link said. "For voting purposes, a voter can claim a park bench as their residence, if that is where they spend their time."

Palm Beach County has other registered voters on the rolls who have listed warehouses and hotels as their place of residence, she said.

 

Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, agreed with Link's interpretation.

"The Florida Election Code does not define the term legal residence," he said. "As such, it is up to the SOE (supervisor of election) to determine where a person lives."

State guidance on the issue notes that legal residency is not defined in Florida law, but the courts and the state's division of elections have "construed legal residency to be where a person mentally intends to make his or her permanent residence."

Evidence of that intent can come from obtaining a Florida driver's license, paying tax receipts, paying utility bills for the residency, claiming a homestead property tax exemption, receiving mail at the address, declaring a county as domicile and "doing other activities indicative or normally associated with home life," according to the guidelines from the Florida Department of State.

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