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NH Almost Sends Private Voter Information About Domestic Violence Victims To Trump’s Commission

Today, the Attorney General’s office announced that the Secretary of State became aware of confidential voter information included on some marked voter checklists submitted to the State Archives.  The error was found during preparation to send personal voter data to President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission.

“A very small number of handwritten entries related to voters who at one time were entitled to vote non-publicly by absentee ballot because they had domestic violence protective orders issued by courts but were added to the public checklist as voters who voted in person at the 2016 General Election,” stated Secretary of State Gardner in a press release issued this morning.

“Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan told WMUR Tuesday that a total of 39 people statewide were under protective order at the time of the 2016 general election and that “approximately seven” of them were incorrectly placed on the public checklists submitted to the state archives by “a handful” of communities,” reported WMUR. 

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement by the Attorney General’s office regarding the public release of private voter information is very concerning.  This episode leaves more questions unanswered about the safety of Granite Staters’ voter information and reinforces the belief that New Hampshire should join the many states that have chosen not to share personal voter information with the Trump commission.”

“Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are protected under New Hampshire law and the careless release of this protected personal information may place a victim and their children in danger from an abuser.  Endangering the health and welfare of these victims because of unfounded voter fraud accusations is unconscionable.”

“After spending considerable time and effort in recent years lobbying for legislation that increases documentation requirements on voters, it is imperative that the Secretary of State’s office focus on providing guidance to our hardworking local election officials and assuring that current laws protecting voter information are not jeopardized.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit puts a high value on privacy. Today, we learned that New Hampshire’s attempt to comply with Trump’s sham Election Integrity Commission request interfered with the most sacred privacy imaginable. And for what? To soothe Trump’s fragile ego and manufacture proof of Trump’s voter fraud conspiracy theories?

Domestic violence victims deserve to have their vote protected and non-public. This was never a consideration for Governor Sununu when he went on TV to say ‘comply’ with the commission or you’re ‘playing politics,’ nor did he consider the questionable legality of handing over the information in the first place. This kind of unthinking snafu is why states default to protecting their voters’ information. We can’t trust this info with a leak-happy White House who has proven they’re not even capable of keeping code word secrets. This should be a moment of reckoning: New Hampshire must stand up to this sham Election Integrity Commission along with the vast majority of states around the country.”

Secretary of State Gardner stressed in his press release that the State “has not released any public records and will not release the requested copies of the marked checklists until an ongoing process of redacting handwritten non-public information is completed.”

ACLU-NH Drops “Voter Information” Lawsuit After State Agrees To Mutual Resolution

NH Secretary of State Agrees to Resolve NH Voter Information Case

The Plaintiffs in this case are pleased that the Secretary of State will obey the law by only transmitting pictures of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives.  The original statements from the Secretary of State manifested an intent to release voter information in a searchable digital file, which the Commission stated would be made available publicly. Today’s resolution means that no digital searchable information will be released and the Secretary, who is himself a member of the Commission, has stated that the material submitted will not be made public.

Today the Secretary of State has elected to produce to the Commission, the distinct voter checklist-marked copies that are used by individual municipalities on Election Day and that are distributed to the State Archives after each election pursuant to RSA 659:102.  Critically, this information — unlike the current statewide checklist at issue in this litigation — is not aggregated on a statewide basis (but rather on a town-by-town basis) and is not text searchable.  This information — which only contains whether the voter’s name, domicile address, mailing address, party affiliation, and whether that voter voted — will be disseminated in the same manner in which they are made available today to anyone in the public the public requesting this information from the individual towns or from the Secretary of State.

In his ultimate response to the demands of the Plaintiffs and the ACLU, The Secretary of State wisely chose to limit his  transmission of voter information to that allowed by State law, conforming to limitations that exist to protect the privacy of the voters.

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to not disclose the statewide public checklist.  The Secretary of State had no statutory authority to release digital information on  the statewide public voter data base to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office,” stated Senator Bette Lasky (D-NH), a plaintiff in the case.

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of the statewide voter checklist—and limited to political entities—for good reason: to protect voter privacy by helping avoid the mass dissemination of statewide vote information in a form that represented a threat to the privacy of the voters,” stated Representative Neal Kurk (R-NH), another plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Representative Kurk was involved in the crafting of the relevant statutes under RSA 654:31, which limit the prospect of mass dissemination of this statewide voter checklist in order to ensure that it is only used for political purposes, and not for commercial gain. (RSA 654:31(VI) explicitly prohibits voter information from being used for commercial purposes.)

RSA 654:31(II)-(III) only allows requesters to: (i) view the current statewide public digital database on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center during normal business hours where requesters are prohibited from printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data and (ii) obtain hard copies of the current public checklist from local municipalities on a town-by-town/ward-by-ward basis at a fee of at least $25 per municipality or ward.

“We are happy that the Secretary of State is not entitled to grant the Commission special, unwritten exemptions that circumvent New Hampshire law,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “He must apply the law to the Commission no differently than he would apply the law to a regular member of the public seeking this information.”

The Plaintiffs in this case are pleased that the Secretary of State will be obeying the law by only transmitting pictures of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives. The parties also believe that the laws relating to the disclosure of voter information need to be tightened so voters are even further protected in the future and pledge to work in a nonpartisan manner to bring about such changes.

After the case was dropped by the ACLU, Senator Laskey and Representative Kirk, Ray Buckley from the NH Democratic Party released the following:

“The state has agreed to limit the scope of information they are releasing to President Trump’s sham election integrity commission. While this is progress in protecting the personal information of Granite Staters, New Hampshire’s voter data in the hands of a leak-happy White House is a risky proposition, especially since the administration has already released unredacted complaints they’ve received about the commission from concerned citizens. This info was requested –and some will be handed over — under the false pretense of President Trump’s constant lies about massive voter fraud to soothe his own insecurities.

These are the same lies propagated by Governor Sununu, who claimed that Massachusetts voters were bused into New Hampshire to cast Democratic votes against him and Trump. As we learned yesterday, on WMUR’s CloseUp, Governor Sununu is still a strong supporter of President Trump despite his offensive statements about the state. Granite Staters need to remain wary of frivolous requests by this administration to pry into our personal information without giving any specific reason. The governor seems more than willing to blindly hand over info without studying up on the law and that speaks to his instinct of defending Trump over protecting New Hampshire.”

Concerned Citizens Confront Secretary of State Gardner Over Information Provided To Election Commission

Today a group of concerned citizens traveled to Concord to have a frank discussion with New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner.  The group had serious concerns about the information being provided to the President’s “Election Integrity Commission” and what the information would be used for.

The commission sent a letter to all 50 states last week requesting them to release personally identifying voter information, which it will then make public. Gardner serves on the commission and last week stated he will give the voter file to the commission. The NH ACLU filed a lawsuit for a temporary injunction on the matter earlier today to prevent him from doing so.

Today when asked Gardner provided some new details into what the commission is doing and that he does not want to make this information public.

First, Gardner explained that Kobach issued a retraction letter, though he has not seen it yet.

 

Gardner went on to say that he does not approve of the ‘Election Integrity Commission’ plan to publicly distribute personal voter data.

“I will make sure that that information is not gonna be put in the public domain,” said Gardner.

It is clear that Gardner shares the concerns of these fellow Granite Staters.

 

The big question is: What does Kris Kobach want to do with this information?  Does Kobach plan to give this information to President Trump?

One Granite Stater asked, “Can you guarantee the current administration won’t be using that database in any way, shape, or form?”

Gardner responded, “We’ll have these discussions when there’s the first meeting,” implying he still does not know what the information is being gathered for.

Mo Baxley of Laconia then asked, “And you won’t turn over the information until those conversations.”

Gardner stated, “I want to make sure that this is not in the public domain, and what the guarantees are for that, and I expect that that is the case, and before it gets turned over, I will make sure that I’m satisfied that, that, that’s the case.”

 


Special Thanks to Granite State Progress for capturing all of this exchange on video.

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Press releases online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.

Concord Lawyer And Executive Councilor Says ‘It Is Illegal To Give Voter Information Away’

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky pens letter to Governor Sununu and Secretary of State Gardner citing New Hampshire law that prohibits the State from divulging the personal information requested by the Election Integrity Commission.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky

“The stakes are too high for state office holders of good conscience to remain silent in the face of this action,” said Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. “As you know, claims of rampant voter fraud are baseless and defame the good people of New Hampshire.”

Many states have already rejected the Election Integrity Commission’s request to hand over personal information on every voter in the state, including: party registration, voter history, and the last four digits of the voter’s social security number.

Governor Sununu stated that New Hampshire would “comply” with the request from the commission sparking outrage from Granite Staters who are concerned about how this information is going to be used and the security of the data.

Secretary Gardner issued a statement on Friday that said:  “What is public is what has been public for decades. In this state, every town and city clerk must keep every checklist they use in an election for at least five years so that any citizen can go in and look at the checklists,” said Gardner.

Secretary Gardner is absolutely correct: anyone can go to the state’s archives and view the voter rolls, party affiliation, and voting history, but they cannot leave with it.

Lawyer and Executive Councilor, Andru Volinsky explained how a person can view the information in a letter to Gov. Sununu and Sec. Gardner.

“Pursuant to RSA 654:31, III, may view the statewide centralized voter registration database only during normal business hours at the state archives building, but may not print, duplicate, or transmit the data.”

“…While RSA 654:31-a makes some voter information public, it is subject to significant restrictions as, for example, law enforcement personnel may access information for investigative purposes.”

Volinsky also confirmed the fears of many Granite Staters.

“Once the Commission makes our voter information public, it will be subject to commercial exploitation.  No voter has given you permission to share voting information with commercial concerns.”

The Secretary of State’s office should be closed for the 4th of July holiday but that does not mean you cannot leave them a message.  Call them at 603-271-3242 (3243) and tell them you do not want your personal information shared by the state.

A full copy of Councilor Volinsky’s letter is attached below.

Volinsky Letter
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