As your Representative for Merrimack 25, Andover, Danbury, Salisbury, Warner and Webster, I need to respond to an article that David Karrick posted last month in several local newspapers.
His concern is over SB3, which will close the Domicile Loophole voting in NH. He states that the Hillsborough Court has “introduced some sanity” by ruling on the penalties. First, I want to say there is an Injunction which is scheduled for the end of October, and we will see where this goes. But let’s check what is already on the NH Election Laws. RSA659:34, “Wrongful Voting: Penalties for Voter Fraud”. “A person is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000 if such person purposely or knowingly makes a false material statement regarding his or her qualifications as a voter to an election officer…” “A person is guilty of class B felony if at any election such person purposely or knowingly votes more than once for any office…” My point is penalties by the State of NH are already on the books. SB3 is only closing a domicile loophole that is to prove you live where you say you live, not due to vague interpretations that had been changed in 2007.
He gives statements about it being a “deterrent on the right to vote”, picturing the next presidential election, causing long lines and of course, the disenfranchised voter. Those comments led me to go visit Secretary Bill Gardner for facts, not “comments”. Mr. Gardner pointed out an article he had on file from 2012. In 2011, the Legislator passed the bill requiring photo identification at the ballot box. It was felt to be a balancing act between a person’s right to vote and a prohibition on those not qualified. It was stated that opponents far outweighed the supporters. “They said far more people will be discouraged from voting or disenfranchised than any amount of voter fraud the bill seeks to stop.” “Opponents argued requiring photo identification makes it harder for the elderly, the poor, the disabled, college students and minorities to vote.”
Now let’s have the facts: NH was 14.2% above the country (in voter turnout) in 2012 and 14.5% above the country as a whole in 2016. In 1980, based on Vote for Highest Office Divided by Voting Eligible Population, NH ranked 21st in voter turnout. In 2012, NH was ranked 4th in the country (70.2%), but in 2016 it came in 2nd (71.4%) to Minnesota.
In the recent Laconia elections, of those registered only 3 people needed to fill out the back of the new form which they did, came back with their domicile proof, end of story. In Manchester’s recent primary, only 14 people needed to fill out the back of the forms, which 1/2 had come back with proof. I picked up a copy of the new forms which is called the “Verifiable Action of Domicile”. Initialing which paragraph fits that persons needs, and then a signature. The other form has a checklist for the person to fill out if they need to have proof of domicile. “Only ONE item on the list is required to demonstrate a verifiable act.”
SB3 takes the step of requiring proof that you are who you say you are and you are not just passing through the state. I really don’t see how this is so upsetting. Again, it only takes a few votes to change an election. We had this in our own Merrimack County, and that is why this domicile loophole must be closed.
Remember, NO ONE is denied their ballot to vote in the State of New Hampshire. Yes, I am proud also to be the First In The Nation State, and as such, integrity matters.
Our Mr. Gardner is the country’s longest serving Secretary of State. He pointed out in regard to close elections, 11 ended in a tie, 32 were decided by one vote, and 202 were decidedly by fewer than 10 votes. Therefore, from Secretary Gardner, “I am witness that every vote matters, and there doesn’t need to be massive voter fraud to sway the outcome.” He went on to say in regards to voter turnout, making voting easier by itself does not result in higher turnout. The ease of voting must be balanced with security and integrity. Automatic voter registration is not going to get more people to vote. It is the will of the voter. It is the value that the voter sees in actually doing it that is the key to getting more people to vote.
The NH Legislators have taken one small step. Many others can be considered, but at this time please know this is not disenfranchising voters, it is giving integrity to our elections.
Separate from this conversation, I just want to say I feel proud having worked with several different constituents this past summer. I hope I am making a difference in their lives, as they have enriched mine also. Different committees have been working on retained bills over the summer, and being a member of Election Law, we are doing the same.
If you have a need to reach out to me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org call me at 603-456-2873.
Representative Natalie Wells