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OUR TURN

We deserve honesty from House leaders

Voter ID column was short on facts

A recent column by New Hampshire's House leadership presented arguments for requiring photo ID to get a ballot on Election Day. It was an opinion piece but the authors included examples of fraud presented as facts ('No need for fear-mongering,' Reps. D.J. Bettencourt, Shawn Jasper and Shaun Doherty, Monitor Forum, March 3). The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire believes clarification is needed.

The column says voter fraud is well-documented but gives only one instance in New Hampshire: a videotaped scam during the primary. House leadership supports the con-artist behind the videotaping but others called for prosecution. The League said at the time, 'The only thing this video shows is that those with time, resources and criminal intent and with no respect for the fundamental laws of our nation can sometimes deceive our neighbors who work as election officials. There is no reason to believe that New Hampshire citizens engage in such un-American behavior.'

The other examples deal with other states' supposed fraud including the charge that 'more than 950 ballots cast in South Carolina's presidential primary were also from the 'nonliving.' '

The South Carolina Election Commission reported last month the alleged 950 ballots were actually from 74 separate elections, not the primary as the op-ed claimed. After investigating 207 cases from 2010's General Election, the commission found 10 cases didn't have enough documentation to make a determination and 197 weren't fraudulent votes. In other words, they didn't find a single 'nonliving' voter.

The column cites a Florida TV story to prove that nearly 100 non-citizens in two counties 'had not only voted, but have been doing so for multiple years.'

Last month, Collier County, Fla., reported that of the 69 alleged non-citizens of 169,000 registered voters, only eight were non-citizens and only four voted at some point from 2004 to 2010, including one who believed his naturalization was completed. Lee County is still investigating whether any of the 84 people named of its 363,050 registered voters aren't citizens.

Somewhat confusingly, the column says that Iowa's close caucus vote means 'more than ever it is important to realize that voter fraud is indeed real, and to ignore this problem any longer is a disservice to the voters.'

It's hard to see how meeting in someone's home to talk things over at an Iowa caucus relates to a New Hampshire election. We have close elections and many recounts, but voter fraud has never been given as a reason for a recount.

The authors also say Democrat-supported photo ID in Rhode Island proves minorities aren't disenfranchised. The politics and demographics of Rhode Island are very different from ours, and those who followed that vote could certainly dispute that conclusion. Rhode Island state Rep. Jon Brien is quoted without noting he is also state chairman of ALEC, the conservative think tank that wrote most of the voter suppression legislation introduced in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

About the polling data cited in the column, there's no dispute that about 89 percent of voting-age citizens have some kind of photo ID. That leaves about 50,000 New Hampshire residents without a photo ID, according to our secretary of state. The question is, should those 50,000 be denied a ballot on Election Day? They can use other documents to register, but the proposed bills call for photo ID to get a ballot.

As for research that concluded voter ID does not affect turnout, the study was of two states, Georgia and Indiana, and looked at overall turnout, not turnout among those without photo ID. Georgia ranks 50th in voter turnout and Indiana is 38th, so there's not much room to drop in any case.

It's clear the authors of the column have never listened to or read any of the testimony from the many organizations - a majority at every hearing - that oppose photo ID to get a ballot. Those opposing photo ID believe creating barriers to the constitutional right to vote, especially for the elderly and disabled, is wrong. House leadership's ranting about race-baiting and fear-mongering is offensive, an insult to our citizens and unworthy of anyone who holds elected office.

(Liz Tentarelli and Sally Davis are co-presidents and Joan Flood Ashwell is election law specialist for the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire.)

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