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N.H. challenge to voting commission data handover heads to court

  • Secretary of State Bill Gardner gives a history of New Hampshire's Electoral College participation before electors cast their votes at the State House in Concord on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file) Elizabeth Frantz



Associated Press
Sunday, August 06, 2017

While other states have started sending voter information to President Donald Trump’s commission investigating election fraud, a judge will determine whether New Hampshire will comply.

A hearing is set for Monday in a lawsuit filed by two lawmakers and a civil liberties group hoping to stop Secretary of State Bill Gardner from sending voter roll data to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The case, filed early last month, had been on hold pending the outcome of a similar lawsuit in Washington.

In that case, a judge denied the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s request to block the data collection, though the advocacy group is appealing the ruling.

In New Hampshire, the state attorney general’s office plans to submit its response to the lawsuit at the hearing. Gardner, a member of Trump’s commission, has said he believes sending the information is legal under a provision that allows the secretary of state to enter into agreements with other states or groups of state for the purpose of comparing duplicate voter information.

But in their lawsuit, Republican Rep. Neal Kurk, Democratic state Sen. Bette Lasky and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire argue that doesn’t apply, because the commission is not a group of states and its purpose is not to compare duplicate voter information.

The New Hampshire law also specifies that such information must be kept “secure.” And even though the commission has clarified that it won’t share individual voter records publicly, the lawsuit argues that state law doesn’t allow privacy protections to be cast aside if someone makes “various privacy promises.”

“Simply put, a requester saying ‘trust me’ does not permit the secretary of state to ignore the law and disclose information to unauthorized recipients,” the group wrote.

Under New Hampshire law, anyone can view the statewide voter database at the state archives building, but it can’t be copied or transmitted. The same law allows Gardner to sell the database to political parties, political committees and candidates, none of which apply to the commission, the lawsuit argues.

The commission asked for any records considered public by the states, including driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers. No state is supplying every item on the list, and among the 32 that say they’re providing some information, several say the commission must first pay fees ranging from $23 to $32,000. New York last week became the first state to hand over some voter information after initially balking. Thirteen states plus Washington, D.C., are still denying all information.

Gardner wants to submit what is considered public in New Hampshire: names, addresses, party affiliations and voting history – whether someone has voted and in which party’s primary. He said he plans to attend the hearing, where he will be represented by Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards.

In the Washington case, the privacy group has until Aug. 18 to submit its appeal arguments. The commission will have until Sept. 15 to respond.