Concord, NH — New Hampshire advocacy groups and legislators announced a three pronged plan to strengthen integrity and build transparency into the voting process and improve access to the ballot box. The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights currently includes America Votes-New Hampshire, Open Democracy, New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters-New Hampshire, NextGen New Hampshire, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, People for the American Way, NAACP New England Area Conference, Granite State Progress and Fair Elections Legal Network.
The campaign’s platform includes three state legislative bills being introduced in the 2016 session:
- Implementing a statewide online voter registration system in 2017;
- Ensuring every voter has the same opportunity to vote on Election Day by standardizing polling hours from 6AM until 8PM;
- Creating an innovation grant system administered by the New Hampshire Secretary of State to support towns and cities to ensure they have the supplies, voting equipment for voters with physical impairments, absentee ballot envelopes and technical support to implement streamlined polling place and registration processes.
Former New Hampshire Charitable Foundation President and Open Democracy Advisory Board Member Lew Feldstein noted, “As the First-in-the-Nation primary state, New Hampshire has a strong reputation for voter participation. Nonetheless we have seen just one in five eligible voters consistently cast ballots in local elections, as documented in the Open Democracy Index. This campaign believes New Hampshire can become a model for the nation to administer inclusive, transparent and high integrity elections. We believe voting must be equally accessible to all citizens regardless of their income, race, gender, age or zip code. We support a voting system that is accessible and consistent for all.”
Plymouth State student and native New Hampshire voter Craig Cavanaugh explained, “I register for school, pay my taxes, cell phone bill and credit cards online. It just makes sense that the state would find a way to update the voter rolls year round so that when I graduate and update my mailing address, I can also go online and update my voter registration.”
Durham Town Council member and State Representative Wayne Burton (Strafford 6) suggested that, “the biggest barrier to working people, who are often taking care of aging parents and helping their children at the same time, is finding the time to vote before or after work.” He continued, “It all boils down to accessibility. If we want to prioritize civic engagement, we must equalize the playing field and support towns like Durham to keep their polling places open and work to reduce long lines with advance online registration. Your voting experience shouldn’t depend on your zip code or ward.”
State Senator David Pierce (District 5) closed the press conference by noting, “Cities and towns are the incubators of democracy. New Hampshire has a unique system where we elect volunteer Supervisors of the Checklist, Moderators and Town Clerks who have so many other responsibilities on their plates. The state legislature and Secretary of State must work together to bring New Hampshire online and ensure our elections processes are accessible to everyone – including people with physical impairments.”
Twenty-three states currently use online voter registration. Five more states will implement it this year, bringing that number to 28 by 2017 – the year when the proposed New Hampshire online voter registration bill would be implemented if passed this legislative session. Furthermore, 38 states have standardized polling hours for statewide elections. New Hampshire is also the only New England state that does not ensure that voting equipment is made available for those with physical impairments for every election, including municipal elections.