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Trump’s Sham Commission On Voting Integrity Meets In New Hampshire

Yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity convened their second official meeting at St. Anslem College, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The group, led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, who is currently the Kansas Secretary of State, continued to take aim at our voting rights.

Kobach gained local notoriety over the past week as he made the claim that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because of thousands of illegal votes from out of state residents. He claimed that because 3,000 people voted in NH with out of state licenses that their votes were examples of voter fraud. The claim was quickly debunked due to the fact that NH does not require voters to have NH drivers license or to register their automobile with the state in order to legally vote.

“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “This Commission has no claim to credibility after failing to condemn last week’s out-and-out lies from Vice Chair Kris Kobach about our state’s voters. Granite Staters should consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”

“Study after study, report and report, and even previous commissions have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and always very isolated,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. “That is proof that the current protections are working, but we have policies and technologies in place to allow us to facilitate the participation in the political process to more and more citizens. We have a moral obligation to do that.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently serving the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C, submitted written testimony to the commission.

In her testimony, Senator Shaheen condemns the commission’s clear intention to make it more difficult for Granite Staters to vote, writing, “The truth is that, here in New Hampshire and across the nation, voter fraud is extremely rare. I am deeply concerned that falsehoods about illegal voting are being spread as a pretext for restricting access to the ballot box. This risks disenfranchising eligible voters and undermining faith in our democracy.”

“Granite Staters take pride in our state’s brand of open and direct democracy, which encourages maximum participation, including by college students and active-duty members of the military who live in our state.  It is not the New Hampshire way to make voting unnecessarily difficult or to target specific groups of voters with deliberately onerous ID laws,” Shaheen wrote.

Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen in submitting legislation to disband the commission.

“I am deeply concerned that since its inception President Trump’s voting commission has attempted to mislead voters and erode trust in the voting process by pushing misleading claims that have been debunked time and again. It is clear that this commission is simply a partisan exercise to lay the groundwork for new attempts at voter suppression, which is why I joined Senator Shaheen in cosponsoring a bill to disband the commission.”

“President Trump’s voter commission has been formed with the predetermined conclusion that voter fraud is a widespread problem and that restrictive voter ID laws are necessary to safeguard our democracy,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is despite the fact there is no evidence of such fraud. Rather than protecting our democracy, voter suppression efforts threaten to undermine the legitimate right of people to exercise their self-determination at the ballot box.”

Kuster added, “The accusations levied by Secretary Kobach are an insult to thousands of local officials and volunteers, both Republican and Democrat, who ensure our free and fair elections in New Hampshire and make the Granite State worthy of being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

“Our elected officials should be working to facilitate civic involvement and build voter participation, especially amongst college students and younger voters,” said St. Anselm student Olivia Teixeira on behalf of the NH Young Democrats. “Instead, with sham commissions like the one meeting today on my campus and through bills like SB 3, Republican’s are using baseless lies of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress voter turnout.”

“If we want to  attract and retain young people to our state, we should be working to empower younger voters to take part in our state’s proud democratic process by advocating for modernizing our voting systems and registration,” Teixeira added.

Aside from the continued discussion on the non-existent voter fraud problem the commission also discussed possible solutions to “strengthen” the integrity of the election process.

At one point, John Lott, a right-wing shill, proposed the idea of using the same background check system we currently use to buy firearms to verify a voters’ eligibility.  Lott is new to “voting rights” advocates however he is well know in “gun rights” circles.  Even before Lott presented his skewed testimony, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a warning, not to believe Lott’s “fuzzy math.”

“Lott’s statistical analysis includes far too many variables and controls – a tell-tale sign of statistical chicanery,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.

Additionally, Commission member and former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, suggested that long lines at the polls were a “good strategy.” This is the same man who “distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters.”

“Today, we met the various characters who decorate Trump’s sham commission. Unfortunately, their fringe conspiratorial thinking is not a caricature but an understatement,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley. “From absurd proposals to run registered voters through background checks to one commission member calling the creation of long voting lines a ‘good strategy’ to Kobach re-asserting his claim of voter fraud in New Hampshire, it’s clear this commission has an agenda, the focus of which is voter suppression. Kobach showed he was willing to lie to the Granite Staters’ faces about New Hampshire law and embarrass Secretary Gardner in his own state by delegitimizing election results.”

“This is a commission that welcomes, absorbs, and operates in conspiracy. President Trump is getting his way when this commission entertains baseless voter fraud claims, muddying the waters and creating uncertainty and distrust in our election system.” Buckley added.

Outside, over a hundred people gathered to protest Trump’s “sham commission.” Among the protesters were members of the NH Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of New Hampshire, America Votes, the NAACP, Granite State Progress, Mayday.US, and the national group Let America Vote.

The protests also garnered a special appearance from Cleanup Carl. “Cleanup Carl is a 12 ft tall superhero for democracy. Committed to taking on the dirty villains trying to destroy our democracy with their toxic anti-voter influence.” Cleanup Carl is project of grassroots democracy organization MAYDAY America.

“This commission is the real threat. It’s a toxic mix for our democracy!” said Cleanup Carl through his spokesperson MAYDAY National Campaign Director Chris Tallent. “New Hampshire residents and Americans should take caution! Some of the most dangerous contaminants known to democracy, Kris Kobach, Mike Pence, and the rest of the sham ‘election integrity’ commission will be in New Hampshire this morning to try to advance their dirty agenda. That’s a volatile mix for democracy! Time to clean ‘em out of our democracy and uphold the right for everyone’s voice to be heard!”

Many of the people outside were also calling on NH’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, to resign from this “sham” commission.

“One thing is clear: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t belong with this cast of conspiratorial misfits,” said Buckley. “He has carried out free and fair elections for over four decades and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive, incorrect and dangerous. Gardner cannot risk sullying New Hampshire’s sterling reputation by remaining on a commission that is willing to travel to our state to insult us in service of a baseless conspiracy designed to suppress votes.”

Gardner, who is currently the longest serving Secretary of State, is “being used by the Trump/Pence sham commission,” said a group of New Hampshire Voters who recently started a petition calling for Gardner to resign his position in the commission.

In response to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, the Democratic National Committee joined with allies and created the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The DNC held a press call to explain how the Trump administration’s voter fraud commission is working to suppress the fundamental democratic rights of Americans and to lay out the steps that Democrats are taking to fight back.

“Make no mistake: this isn’t a war on voter fraud, it’s a war on voters. And it’s only being waged by Republicans, and we will not let our guard down for a moment.  As Democrats, our goal is the engage every eligible American voter as an active participant in our democracy,” said Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC. “We want to make it easier for people who are eligible to vote, not harder for them to vote.  And that means fighting voter suppression tactics to create free, fair, and accessible elections.  We must protect the one right that preserves all others—the right to vote.”

“Instead of building themselves around policies that reach out to communities like minorities and low incomes folks and the elderly and the disabled, instead of doing that, they’re just going to exclude those folks from democracy.  That’s their solution.  And it’s cynical, and it’s wrong, and it’s un-American,” Jason Kander, Chair of the DNC commission, former Missouri Secretary of State, and President of Let America Vote. “We’ve had this argument before in America.  Folks marched across a bridge, American heroes did, in Selma.  And they faced batons, they faced down dogs and hoses, and it was all for the simple idea that in America everybody counts.  We shouldn’t go backward.  We should only go forward on these issues.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed public comments outlining the glaring problems with the Commission including its lack of ideological diversity or commitment to transparency in accordance with federal law.

“Today’s Commission meeting in New Hampshire lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination that we know prevents racial minorities from voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Instead, Kris Kobach and his colleagues continued marshaling data in misleading ways to continue building a false narrative that voter fraud exists.  This myth has been widely discredited, and yet we listened to commissioners reiterate these claims in ways that proved truly irresponsible.”

“Today’s Commission meeting must be viewed in the context of a Justice Department that has all but abandoned its obligation to enforce laws that would eliminate voting discrimination.  The Commission is part of the administration’s broader agenda to promote national policies that would make it harder for minority communities to vote,” Clarke concluded.

NH Superior Court Blocks Penalties Within SB 3 (Voter Suppression Bill)

NH Superior Court put penalties for voter suppression law SB 3 on hold, siding with NH Democratic Party 

Nashua, N.H. – This morning, Hillsborough County Superior Court South put penalties for violating SB 3 on hold and granted both parties standing, siding with the New Hampshire Democratic Party on both key issues. The decision was a response to NHDP filing a preliminary injunction against the law. The case will now be heard in full, with both plaintiffs granted standing.

SB 3 would impose immense burdens on eligible New Hampshire voters, and is designed to have a disproportionate effect on young people, low-income, elderly and disabled voters who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

“This order is a victory for voting rights in New Hampshire. The court’s decision to strip the law of its penalties shows exactly how burdensome and intimidating they are. It proves the state cannot threaten people with criminal prosecution for merely registering to vote,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “This order offers no good news for the state, who will now have to argue the entirety of this law on the merits. We know the state’s fight is a losing one, and one we will keep fighting, as NHDP has been has granted our day in court.”

“Most importantly, today’s order means voters are protected from the law’s intimidating penalties, continued Buckley. “This victory means that voters can exercise their most fundamental right to have a voice in our democracy without fear or intimidation. If even one voter is disenfranchised, we will stand up and fight it. We don’t intend to disappoint the long list of American heroes and martyrs who have risked so much for the right to have a voice at the ballot box. We are confident the full law will be declared unconstitutional.”

“This is a victory for voting rights.  As the Court held, the punishment portion of SB 3 imposed a severe restriction on the right to vote.  This portion was particularly problematic because it would have criminalized certain voters who simply do not have the required documentation,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director, ACLU of New Hampshire.

“Today’s ruling is a rebuke of the Republican effort to intimidate and disenfranchise New Hampshire voters and a win for voting rights,” said NH Senate Democratic Leader, Jeff Woodburn. “The court’s determination to strip the penalties in SB 3 because they are a serious deterrent to voting is vindication for those fighting to protect the fundamental right to vote. This is a strong first step in what will be a long fight for justice. Senate Democrats remain firm in our commitment to defend the right to vote and will continue to push back against the ongoing attack on New Hampshire voters.”

“Men and women from New Hampshire have fought in foreign lands to protect our rights at home, most importantly our right to vote,” said House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff. “The House Democratic Caucus is doing everything we can to protect that right, and we were in full support of the lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters.  Today’s court ruling affirms everything House Democrats have said about SB 3 throughout the process.”

“As the court ruling stated, SB 3 places ‘severe’ restrictions on voters that act as ‘a very serious deterrent on the right to vote.’  The ruling also noted that no ‘compelling’ need for SB 3 was presented to the Court.”

“Laws that deter voters through severe restrictions have no place in New Hampshire, especially when lawmakers cannot present any compelling reason for enacting it.  House Democrats will continue to do all we can to protect voters from unnecessary attempts to restrict voter rights,” Shurtleff concluded.

“The right to vote shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Republicans in Concord are trying to change the way we hold elections so that it’s easier for them to win re-election. Now the New Hampshire Democratic Party is standing up for the thousands of Granite Staters who risk disenfranchisement under SB3, and they should be applauded for that,” said Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote.

“Instead of making an honest effort to earn the votes of New Hampshire college students, Republicans have decided to simply exclude them from the election process. Governor Sununu lost all credibility when he echoed President Trump’s lie that voters were being bussed in from other states to vote for Democrats in 2016. Governor Sununu has made it clear that he doesn’t value the free and fair elections that make up the cornerstone of our democracy, and he should pay for it during his next election.

“New Hampshire voters will make their argument in court for why this unconstitutional voter suppression law has no place in their state, but we also have to take this fight into the court of public opinion. Let America Vote exists to make politicians think twice before excluding eligible voters from elections to create a political advantage. Republican vote suppressors in New Hampshire will feel the legal and political heat of their missteps through the next election cycle,” Kander concluded.

SB 3’s provisions:

  • Create two different forms for those registering more than 30 days out from an election and those registering within the 30-day period
  • Deny those without paperwork the right to register more than 30 days out from an election
  • Force registrants to read & sign a long & confusing document comprehension experts say is written at a graduate-student reading level
  • Lengthen lines and dissuade voters from turning out due to the longer and more complicated same-day registration requirements
  • Mandate that voters who signed an affidavit bring evidence to verify their intent to remain in the state within 10 days after an election
  • Subject those who failed to deliver that evidence within 10 days to investigation and possible civil and criminal penalty of and a $5,000 fine
  • Appoint investigators, who could be anyone from police to the town conspiracist, to come to your door in their completion of a voter fraud investigation against you

SB 3 is the first voter suppression law passed in the Trump era. It was based on the “belief” of voter fraud rather than any evidence. President Trump and Governor Sununu’s lies about Democrats busing voters across the state border to vote illegally created a pretext for this suppressive law. Sununu signed it into law in July.

The Real Risk To Our Voting Process Is Not ‘Voter Fraud’

The goal of technology is to make our lives easier. With the invention of computerized voting machines calculating votes at the end of the day has become drastically easier but the use of these machines can cause additional problems and threaten the security of the ballot.

Over the last three presidential elections there have been multiple reports of malfunctioning voting machines.  Some touch screen voting stations would select the wrong candidate and the voter would have no way to change their vote.

Other issues stem from a lack of paper ballot backups. If a person challenges the vote count, election officials cannot go back and count the votes by hand because their are no paper ballots.

In Wellington Florida, election officials certified the wrong candidate based on incorrect computer tabulations of votes cast. The results were corrected after a hand recount of paper ballots was used to verify the results.

Some states have even gone so far as to allow their ballots to be transmitted over the internet leaving them susceptible to tampering.

Right now, President Trump created a Voting Integrity Commission to address voting laws and requirements under the guise of protecting us from non-existent voter fraud. This commission is a sham and way for Trump to validate his lies about millions of votes being cast illegally and to push for stronger voter ID laws that have been proven to suppress votes.  It is highly unlikely that Trump’s commission will suggest that “motor voter” registrations be mandatory, or that states should move to voting by mail to expand voter participation.

While in person voter fraud is a more of an urban legend than reality (literally a handful of cases in hundreds of millions of ballots cast), there are a few areas that have the potential to compromise our voting process, swaying results and it revolves mostly around the ballot itself, counting ballots, and the electronic transmission of voting data.

Yesterday, The Hill released an article  showing how hackers corrupted voting machines at a cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas.

One of the nation’s largest cybersecurity conferences is inviting attendees to get hands-on experience hacking a slew of voting machines, demonstrating to researchers how easy the process can be.

“It took me only a few minutes to see how to hack it,” said security consultant Thomas Richards, glancing at a Premier Election Solutions machine currently in use in Georgia.

…The conference acquired 30 machines for hackers to toy with. Every voting machine in the village was hacked.

The Hill also notes that the vast  majority of the machines used in actual elections are not interconnected or connected to the internet making it harder for potential hackers to corrupt voting machines on a large scale.   However, small scale or isolated tampering could sway the results of a single polling place.

But what about those states that are toying with some form of online voting or voting machines that are connected to the internet to transmit votes?  These actions put our votes at risk and the security of the ballot box in serious jeopardy.

“Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow some form of Internet voting – transmitting votes either via email, electronic fax, or Internet portal – typically for use by overseas and military voters. Because of current technological limitations, and the unique challenges of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain separation of voters’ identities from their votes when Internet voting is used,” wrote Caitriona Fitzgerald, Pamela Smith, Susannah Goodman in their report The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy

In 2016, Common Cause released a report focused on protecting the vote and ensuring everyone has the ability to vote. They reviewed laws and procedures for voting in 11 “swing states” to see if our votes were at risk.

“Once voters learn laws they thought made elections safer, like voter ID requirements, actually prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible people from voting, they are more likely to see it as a manipulation of the system and reject it.  It is critically important that voters exercise their constitutional right, so take a few minutes to learn more, because the best way to fight back against politicians gaming the system to silence your voice is to make a plan to vote,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn.

The report showed that my home state of New Hampshire faired very good when it came to tracking and protecting the votes after they have been cast through the use of paper ballots but was seen as “unsatisfactory” when it came to accessing the ballot box due to poorly written voter ID laws and inability of voters to register online ahead of time.

New Hampshire does not accept any form of “electronic” ballots and in-person voting is done on paper, though still calculated by a “scantron” machine.  Computer tabulation machines have been known to cause errors in voting results, but with a paper copy hand recounts and audits can be used to verify computer data.  Overall Common Cause rated New Hampshire as “excellent” in ensuring that our votes were not susceptible to outside hackers.

Other states did not fair as well.  Common Cause gave an “unsatisfactory” rating to Iowa, North Carolina, and Nevada when it comes to the potential of votes being tampered with after being cast.

Ballots cast online simply cannot be protected from undetectable tampering. Foreign or domestic hackers can access these ballots and alter their contents.

…Four of the states we reviewed put ballots at risk by allowing the ballots to be sent over the internet, where they are vulnerable to remote interception and undetectable altering. These states do not acknowledge the risks involved in internet voting.

Two of our swing states, Iowa and North Carolina, put ballots at risk by allowing overseas and military voters to vote via email. A third, Nevada has created its own internet portal for voter use.

(Note: The fourth state, not mentioned in the above quote, is Florida who allows absentee ballots from military service members to be cast via fax.) 

Ensuring everyone has access to the ballot box and that our votes are secure is the foundation of our democracy.  Voter ID laws block access to the ballot box and internet or computerized voting can put our ballots at risk.

What can we do to fix this?

Go back to paper ballots and count them by hand.  Eliminate the potential for hackers to tamper with voting machines by eliminating voting machines completely.  Going back to the old school way of doing it will protect our votes but it will take longer to get results. As a political junkie like myself, this means staying up till 2am to get results, and that is fine with me.

We need to focus our efforts to ensuring greater access to the ballot box and ensuring that our votes our secure and free from potential tampering

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 6-2-17: NH Budget, Edelblut-Croydon Bill, And Voting Rights

Bow, NH – June 2, 2017

Thursday, June 1, was a gorgeous day, easily the best weather we have had here in NH for some time. Clear skies by afternoon, warming temperatures, and no rain! In Representatives Hall in the NH State House, however, it proved to be a much drearier and depressing day, although not terribly surprising. On the final day to act on Senate bills, the Republican majority flexed their muscle and demonstrated anew that elections matter. Remember this, when your friends and co-workers tell you next year they are not bothering to vote because “it just doesn’t matter.” It does, and yesterday’s votes in the House prove it.

Edelblut-Croydon Bill   Over the course of seven hours, the Republicans in the House used their superior numbers to force through a number of objectionable bills. Headlining the parade were two bills which have garnered much attention here in this bulletin. SB 8, often termed the Croydon or the Edelblut bill, passed on what was nearly a straightforward party-line vote, and later in the day, the same party-line vote (with a few exceptions) led to passage of SB 3, the voter suppression bill. With regards to SB 8, proponents argued this was simply about giving students the best educational opportunities. What they never addressed were the glaring inequities, whereby private schools may now receive public funding but are under no requirement to accept all students. Those with special educational needs may continue to be excluded, as well as any other categories of students the school determines are not eligible for enrollment. In addition, the accountability of such schools is virtually non-existent, and the myriad requirements imposed on public schools by these same legislators are simply not applicable to private schools. Whether this legislation will withstand the inevitable court challenges remains to be seen, but what we witnessed yesterday was a major step forward towards privatization of public education, all done in the name of “choice.” The unanswered question of course is “Choice for whom?” Are such opportunities equally afforded to all? Can local districts take over the State’s responsibility to determine just what is an “adequate education?” These and many other serious questions remain.

Bad Day for Voting Rights   The second major piece of legislation was SB 3, which passed the House a bit later in the day. The debate was “full and robust,” according to one Republican speaker, with proponents denying that voter registration would be reduced by creating lengthy new forms for same-day registrants and threatening to send State, County or local officials to confirm your claimed domicile. Once again, they could not bring forward a single definitive example of voter fraud, but instead, resorted to citing how many voters in NH might also be registered to vote in another state. No surprise there—voter lists are only purged every few years, and when people move and register to vote in their new place of residence, they rarely inform voting officials in their previous town and state that they have moved. Think about it—when you last moved and registered to vote in your new town or city, weren’t you now registered in two places, at least for a year or two? But then, SB 3 would do nothing to solve this problem. In fact, SB 3 would require those who live in a domicile where they are not on the lease or mortgage to get proof of residence from the landlord or someone they live with, meaning their ability to vote is now dependent upon cooperation of a third party. Sound fair? Finally, in the most telling moment regarding SB 3, after the Republican majority passed the bill and characterized the debate as “full and robust,” that same majority refused to print the text of the debate in the permanent journal of the House, likely out of a concern that the resulting legal record would come back to haunt them in the future court cases and litigation that is certain to follow. Why give the courts the opportunity to determine legislative intent, when the proclaimed problems to be solved are either fictional or admittedly unresolved by the legislation?

Full-Day Kindergarten Funding   Finally, late in the day there was one bright spot, whereby a bipartisan majority soundly endorsed funding for full-day kindergarten. Now let’s be clear—this is still not full funding for full-day kindergarten. Instead of 50% funding at the paltry sum the State claims as covering an “adequate education,” this legislation moves the funding to just over 75% funding, meaning more monies flowing to towns, cities and school districts, but still not full funding. But, you take what you can get, and in this case, that meant also accepting provisions for legalizing keno in New Hampshire. Without the keno provision, the kindergarten funding would not pass, even though the two items are not related, so even many long-time opponents of casinos and expanded gambling swallowed hard and voted for the bill. Keno puts the kindergarten funding back into the Senate and eventually, a likely committee of conference to iron out House/Senate differences. If keno disappears from the final version of the bill, so be it, but at least increased funding for full-day kindergarten is still alive and kicking.

Budget Next Steps  The House will meet again next week for a brief session but both House and Senate are now really focused upon committees of conference to iron out differences on specific pieces of legislation, including the budget passed two days ago by the Senate. That budget uses conservative revenue estimates to justify limiting spending increases, although monies were found to increase funding for charter schools (no such increases for public schools) and for funding a full-time publicist/spokesperson for Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. The House will undoubtedly non-concur with the Senate’s budget next week on June 8, which means differences will be resolved in a committee of conference composed of select Senators and Representatives. If they could only smoke cigars in the State House or Legislative Office Building then we could truly say the budget will be worked out in a “smoke-filled room.”   Instead, the air will be clearer, but the results will still be murky.
In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Coalition And Activists Call On Governor Sununu To Veto Voter Suppression Bill SB3

Legislators Fail to Stand Up for Voting Rights, Local Control of Elections

CONCORD – The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights urges New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu to veto SB3 following its passage in the state House today. Passing narrowly on a 191-162 vote, SB3 will create an unfunded mandate for cities and towns and long lines for same-day registration.

Sununu’s veto would be a show of support for the constitutional right of all eligible residents in New Hampshire to participate in our elections.

SB3 severely tightens qualifications for voting in New Hampshire and potentially criminalizes legitimate same-day registration voters who know they cannot provide proof that they have performed a so-called “verifiable act,” such as buying a home or entering a formal lease — thereby effectively disenfranchising elderly, low income, and other vulnerable citizens, especially those who move in the months before an election and are unable to obtain sufficient proof. Under SB3, a voter who knowingly fails to provide evidence of domicile within 10 days faces a fine up to $5,000.

Hundreds of activists worked around the clock after a record number of 40 bills pertaining to voting rights, were filed this legislative session. Next Wave organizations such as Indivisible and Kent Street Coalition went to work and joined over 10 permanent advocacy organizations in an effort that powered a grassroots movement. The campaign included 22 nights of phone banks hosted across the state filling 274 volunteer shifts powered by 134 volunteers. Patch through phone calls generated 478 calls to state Senators and 855 calls to state House members. Meanwhile 246 postcards reached 22 Senators and 795 postcards reached 258 House members. Approximately 500 voters attended SB 3’s two marathon hearings, the House hearing becoming one of the longest voting rights hearings in recent history. Finally, volunteers called every Town Clerk, Moderator and Supervisors of the Checklist, over 600 across the state, to educate them on how SB 3 would unfairly impact towns and cities.

“Hundreds of ordinary people, not previously politically involved, worked to defeat SB3, as they saw the bill for what it was, a serious attempt to make voting in New Hampshire more difficult for many eligible voters,” said Linda Rhodes, Co-Chair of Indivisible New Hampshire. “It’s a sad day when the New Hampshire Legislature, instead of modernizing voting and making it more accessible and transparent, makes voting harder for citizens. Our volunteers will now turn our attention to making sure that our voter registration drives get into high gear, and you can be sure we will be trying to replace the New Hampshire Representatives who voted in favor of SB3.”

“SB 3 got many of us to the State House for the first time, said Louise Spencer, leader of Kent Street Coalition.” “Voting is the most fundamental of our democratic rights and we weren’t willing to see this right legislated away.  So we began showing up – attending hearings, talking to representatives in the hallways, testifying before committees. We are paying more attention than ever to what is happening here in Concord and we intend to hold our legislators accountable on voting rights.”

“The 2017 Legislative Session was a wakeup call for community members around the state,” said Paula Hodges, America Votes NH State Director. “SB3 is only the beginning of a resistance movement that is powering actions in living rooms and town halls across the Granite State. New Hampshire has a proud tradition of inclusive civic engagement and SB3 flies in the face of that tradition. We are sad to see that the New Hampshire Secretary of State did not listen to the concerns of our cities and towns and the election volunteers who do the real work on Election Day. We didn’t send politicians to Concord to mess with voting rights and they will be hearing from their constituents on this vote all Summer.”

“Senate Bill 3 accomplishes one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here,” said University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker. “Despite hours of powerful testimony from countless young voters who see this bill as an assault on their, and their peers, ability to vote and take part in the democratic process Republican leadership decided to ignore our voices. Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

No local election officials supported the bill after hours of testimony in both the House and Senate and were not engaged in the drafting of the legislation. SB3 will jam lines at the polls, as some voters will have to fill out pages of additional paperwork.

“The reforms proposed in SB3 are not reforms that local election officials were looking for.  I find it interesting that the majority party that is always touting local control, doesn’t trust locally elected and sworn election officials to carry out this sacred duty? Every election official from Town and City Clerks to Ballot Clerk take this duty very seriously,” said Jim Tetreault, Town Clerk/Tax Collector, Town of Winchester.

“People shouldn’t be fined for exercising their right to vote and doing nothing wrong other than not returning to a government agency with certain paperwork—paperwork that these legitimate voters may not have,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “SB 3 is also a violation of voters’ privacy by sending government agents to voters’ homes to check their documents. Requiring people to accept this government intrusion as a condition of voting will chill the right to vote.”

Aside from the Coalition, many others spoke out against the passage of SB3.

University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker:

“Senate Bill 3 will accomplish one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here. Despite hours of powerful testimony from countless young voters who see this bill as an assault on their ability to vote and take part in the democratic process, Republican leadership decided to ignore our voices. Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook):

“Today’s vote in support of SB 3 was a partisan sabotage of the election process that will do nothing but confuse and intimidate new voters.  This legislation adds over 350 words to the registration form that new voters will be required to read, and swear to understand, with the pressure of a growing line behind them at the polls on Election Day.”

“Requiring voters to read and comprehend an entire essay at the polls is unnecessary, intimidating, and only complicates work of election officials who will be tasked with helping voters understand the registration requirements.”

“No local election officials testified in support of this bill because the current process works well.  SB 3 is an illogical solution in search of a problem that will increase bureaucracy and expenses on local taxpayers.”

“This legislation was clearly designed to placate those who buy into President Trump’s discredited assertion that fraud cost him the popular vote in New Hampshire.  Leaders from both parties denounced those assertions, and as we know from the reports released following every single New Hampshire election, voter fraud is not an issue in our state.”

“Our election officials deserve support for the hard work they do preserving the integrity of our elections.  Advancing the myth of ‘voter fraud’ is not only disrespectful to those who enforce our laws, it also threatens the confidence in our First in the Nation Presidential Primary.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Today, Governor Sununu and President Trump’s voter fraud lies definitively shaped New Hampshire law. Our voting system is already secure with no credible voter fraud, and Republican attempts to say otherwise are based in conspiracy theory. Voter suppression laws like SB3 are designed to drive down turnout and slow down lines. These voting roadblocks change the outcomes of our elections. Anytime we disenfranchise a single eligible voter, we are damaging the integrity of our elections. Governor Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for propagating lies and legislation that undermine the integrity of our democratic process.”

New Hampshire Legislature Becomes 34th State to Allow Electronic Poll Books

Trial Poll Book Devices are Step toward Modernizing, Securing, and Streamlining Elections 

CONCORD – New Hampshire voting rights advocates praise the passage of electronic poll books, which will modernize, secure and streamline elections in the state. The New Hampshire Legislature passed Senate Bill 113 today with strong bipartisan support.

SB 113 will authorize a trial of electronic poll book devices for voter registration and check-in at future municipal and statewide elections and was part of a modernization package that ACLU, America Votes, League of Women Voters NH, and Open Democracy advocated for to relieve congested polling locations and help towns and cities’ Election Day burden.

Having a closed, electronic database available on election day makes it easier for officials to maintain accurate lists of eligible voters and make sure that only eligible American citizens are able to participate in our elections.

“I’m thrilled that the legislature has taken this pragmatic step forward in modernizing our election process,” said bill sponsor and longtime champion Senator Bette Lasky, Nashua. “New Hampshire prides itself on a tradition of strong citizen participation in elections. But we also know that high voter turnout can create long lines at the polls. We must do everything we can to ensure that voting is accessible and efficient for everyone.”

“This pilot is a commonsense solution that gives communities the opportunity to test the system and help election workers process voters more quickly and ensure that busy Granite Staters have every opportunity to participate,” said Olivia Zink, Open Democracy Executive Director. “The program also provides enhanced features that will ensure less errors on the voter rolls and increased efficiency that helps free up more local resources post-election.”

All towns and cities participating in the trial program must have adequate back-up systems and cover all costs associated with electronic poll books. The programs covered in SB 113 must also meet certification standards established by the Secretary of State.

ACLU Launches Multi-State Legal Action on Voting Rights

Seeks Information Related to New Trump Election Commission

The myth that is voter fraud is pushing legislation in many states and now President Trump has created a new commission to study “election integrity.”

“The President of the United States has alleged that “millions of votes” were “illegally” cast “for the other side” during the November 2016 General Election. No concrete evidence has been provided thus far to support the President’s serious indictment against American democracy. Yet the President’s allegations are the basis of an Executive Order, issued today, directing the Vice President to establish a “Commission on Election Integrity.”This FOIA demands that the government release the factual bases and evidence supporting the President’s allegations,” wrote the ACLU in a May 11th Freedom of Information Act request.

Though President Trump announced plans to form the commission months ago, he signed the executive order just last week. The commission is headed up by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whom the ACLU has successfully sued numerous times over his voter suppression policies. The FOIA requests target commission members who currently serve as secretaries of state — Kobach of Kansas, Connie Lawson of Indiana, Bill Gardner of New Hampshire, and Matthew Dunlap of Maine — as well as Christy McCormick, commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Multiple reports have shown that voter fraud is a myth and that we have had only a couple of actual cases of voter fraud out of millions of ballots cast.

Earlier this year, in an interview with CNN, Kobach claimed he had reason to believe out-of-state residents voted illegally in New Hampshire — because Kobach said New Hampshire’s Secretary of State told him thousands of people registered to vote using out-of-state licenses on the day of the election.

“Now some of those are going to be legit, they’re going to be people who just moved to New Hampshire and hadn’t yet gotten a New Hampshire driver’s license,” Kobach told CNN. “But many of those will be out-of-state residents who voted in the state.”

(From NHPR)

“We haven’t seen any evidence that there’s widespread voter fraud taking place. We do get anecdotal reports, but the substance is not available to back up those claims,” David Scanlan, NH’s Deputy Secretary of State told WMUR. “We do know that voter fraud does occur in every election on a small scale.”

Despite a complete lack of evidence Trump and Kobach continue to make claims that thousands of out-of-staters are coming to New Hampshire to vote.  Even after Sec. Gardner stated that voter fraud does not exist in New Hampshire, he has thrown his weight behind SB3, saying that there is an “perception” that voter fraud exists.  This “perception,” not actual voter fraud, is leading the legislature to change the law.  While proponents say that everyone who voted in 2016 would be able to vote in 2018 if SB3 passes, opponents of the bill say it is “voter suppression” aimed at making it harder for young people to vote.

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union sent coordinated Freedom of Information Act requests to officials in Kansas, Indiana, New Hampshire, Maine, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission seeking information related to the Trump administration’s new “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.”

“We believe the outcome of the commission’s investigation is preordained,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It’s time to shed light on whether any commission members were crafting policy recommendations before their investigation was launched or the commission was even formally announced. If they’ve got evidence, it’s time to stop hiding and start sharing.”


Attached is NH’s FOIA request all of the rest of today’s FOIA requests are available here.

5.18.17_new_hampshire_rtk_request

SB 3 Is Only About One Thing: Voter Suppression

Voter intimidation leads voter suppression and that leads to people losing their voice in our democracy.

The New Hampshire House is now considering a bill, SB 3, that was forced through the Senate, straight down party lines, would make it harder for people to vote.

For years the Republican Party has been pushing to “strengthen” our voting laws. By “strengthening” I mean they are trying to block typically Democratic voters from being able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.

Research shows that in higher turnout elections Democrats do better. So Republicans will do anything to keep the voter turn out small in an effort to gain a political advantage.

First they passed the restrictive Voter ID law requiring every voter have a valid New Hampshire ID in order to vote.

Now they are working to change the “domicile” language to protect New Hampshire elections from they myth of voter fraud.

Much of this voter fraud debate has stemmed from the false accusations by Donald Trump, and echoed by Governor Chris Sununu, that “busloads” of voters are being brought into New Hampshire from Massachusetts to sway our elections. Trump, Sununu, and the entire NH Republican Party are using the sheer number of same-day voter registrations as the basis for their claim of voter fraud.

SB 3 requires new voters to show proof of their “domicile” by providing supporting documentation like a utility bill with their name and address on it.

This alone is difficult for college students who live in the dormitories, as their mailbox is not specific to where they reside on campus.

Does this minor detail enough to confuse a college student about their eligibility to vote? Is this enough to keep them from voting entirely?

Proponents of the bill say that all you need to do is sign the form and then return to the town hall with proper documentation within 10 days. If you fail to do this, you could be subject to fines or possible jail time. The town may even send someone to you home to verify your address. At one point the Senate wanted to send armed police officers to your house if you filed a domicile affidavit.

So why are so many people against this bill?

For starters, the GOP are attempting to solve a problem that does not exist. They are spreading wild accusations that out of staters coming to NH on Election Day to vote. Over the last decade there has only been 2 cases of voter fraud out of thousands and thousands of ballots cast.

They are trying to suppress the vote through intimidation and threat of jail time for those who register to vote on Election Day. Our domicile laws are pretty straight forward now: If you are domiciled in New Hampshire on Election Day you can vote in local elections. This means that students at UNH can claim NH as their domicile and vote in NH elections.

Republicans continue to say that they one want people to vote who “have a stake in the community.”   Are Republicans trying to say that a college student who lives in NH, attends school in NH, and works in NH for more than nine months of the year, does not have a stake in the community?

Both parties should be working on expanding access to the polls not restricting it. We should make it easier for people to register to vote by tying voter registrations to driver’s licenses and allowing people to register to vote online.   This alone could reduces long lines at polling places and is much easier to track that paper copies.

But because Republicans really only want to rig the system for their own gain, they refuse to make online registration available.

Intimidating voters and attempting to suppress the vote is the foundation of SB 3 and that is why our elected representatives must reject this harmful piece of legislation.

New SB 3 Amendment Could Sent Vigilantes To Verify Residency

Amended Version of SB 3 Much Worse Than Original Bill, Still Sends Police to Voter Doors and Now Authorizes Vigilantes Too

In a rushed amendment vote, Senate Republicans try to replace section of bill that caused largest public outcry but instead leave same result and 10x worse 

Concord, NH – The NH Senate Election Law committee amended SB 3 on Tuesday to remove sending police to voter doors by name, but the amended version uses covert language to still actually allow the supervisor of the checklist to send police to your door – and now goes even further by allowing them to deputize the local town conspiracy theorist or vigilante group to do it as well.

There’s a section in the amended SB 3, as passed by Senate Republicans on the Election Law Committee yesterday, that states “agents” can be sent to voter doors to verify that they live there. There is no limit on who can be designated an agent for this purpose, nor are there any provisions for proper training or how to conduct these checks; an open carry activist or an individual ideologically opposed to college students voting could be among those deputized.

In the latest version of SB 3 the following was removed: “Requesting local law enforcement during their routine patrols to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled there on election day” and the bill language modified from “Requesting 2 or more supervisors or other municipal officials to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled there on election day” to “Requesting 2 or more supervisors or municipal, county, or state election officers or their agents to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled  there on election day.” (SB 3 Amendment #2017-0978s, Senate Election Law Executive Session on Tuesday, March 21, 2017)

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“SB 3 has been poorly written from the start but this latest amendment makes it ten times worse. Senate Republicans attempted to quiet public outcry over the provision of sending police officers to voter doors but in doing so they passed an amendment that actually allows that and more. Under the amended version, checklist supervisors can still send law enforcement or they can deputize others to conduct the checks, which could include deputizing voter suppression activists or even vigilante groups. In fact, there are now no limits whatsoever on whom they could send. It is shameful that Senate Republicans took credit during committee for removing the police officer provision by name while simultaneously opening the back door for the same activity and worse. SB 3 is nothing more than an attack on voting rights. It creates a poll tax by requiring financial transactions for many of the verifiable acts listed, and it penalizes voters $5,000 for being a day late with paperwork even if they did nothing wrong when registering to vote. In the hours-long public hearing, testimony highlighted that the bill will disproportionately impact eligible voters including students, low-income people, homeless veterans, and domestic violence survivors. New Hampshire politicians have many more pressing issues to deal with than needlessly attacking voting rights with harmful bills like SB 3.” 

Senate Republicans offered the amendment in committee Tuesday morning and called a vote less than 30 minutes later, denying Senate Democrats and voting rights advocates an opportunity to review the language and provide feedback prior to the vote. It is unclear whether the poorly written amendment was intentional or a result of Senate Republicans jamming the bill forward without regard for public input or voter impact.

Good And Bad News On Senator Lasky’s Bills To Make The Voting Process Easier

This week the Senate held two votes on legislation submitted by Senator Bette Lasky to expand access and ease the voting process.

The first SB 113, which passed the Senate with a voice vote, would allow cities and towns to “conduct a trial of electronic poll book devices for voter registration and check-in for elections.” This would simplify check in procedures as the lists would continually be updated through an online database.

“I’m thrilled that the Senate has taken this pragmatic step forward in modernizing our election process. New Hampshire prides itself on a tradition of strong citizen participation in elections. But we also know that high voter turnout can create long lines at the polls. We must do everything we can to ensure that voting is accessible and efficient for everyone,” said Senator Lasky.

“This pilot program gives communities the opportunity to test electronic poll books in upcoming elections in the hope that this resource will help election workers process voters more quickly and ensure that busy Granite Staters have every opportunity to participate. The program also provides enhanced protections against fraud, and the increased efficiency provided by this technology also helps free up election workers to move more quickly through their post-election responsibilities.” 

Several states have successfully adopted the electronic poll book system. Proponents of the program cite the tool’s ability to help election workers access a statewide voter database to quickly look up and identify eligible voters, redirect individuals who are in the wrong polling location to the correct polling site, scan a driver’s license and sign in electronically, and reduce wait times at high traffic polling locations. Access to increased information also helps prevent against voter fraud.

The second, SB 194, was killed by Republicans in party line vote. The bill would have authorized online voter registration in New Hampshire. When tied with electronic poll books, voters could register online and then go vote without having to wait in long lines at the polling place.  Typically the longest line in a polling place is those registering to vote.   

“Making the process of registering to vote and casting your ballot more secure and accessible is something we should all be able to agree on,” said Lasky.Allowing our citizens to register to vote online would help make the process more efficient and increase the number of citizens exercising one of their most important rights. I remain confused as to why Republicans continue to block legislation that makes voting more accessible to the people of New Hampshire.” 

38 states have already implemented online voter registration. Research shows that the convenience of online voter registration greatly increases registration and participation.

This is only the first in a long line of proposed legislation that affects our voting process.  The Governor and Republican leadership are pushing for “stronger Voter ID” laws, which have been proven to lower turnout and disenfranchise voters.  They are also considering eliminating same day voter registration.  

Ending same day voter registration and blocking online voter registration could result in a drastic drop in voter participation, especially in Presidential election years.  Then again, maybe that is what Republicans want, as records show that higher turnout elections tend to favor Democrats.  

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