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Chief complaint at polls: long lines

Voters come armed with IDs, affidavits

JosŽ Contreras, of Rockport, Massachusetts, and a sophomore at New England College in Henniker, registers to vote for the first time on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

JosŽ Contreras, of Rockport, Massachusetts, and a sophomore at New England College in Henniker, registers to vote for the first time on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

As New Hampshire voters waited in long lines and polling locations adjusted procedures to implement the new voter ID law yesterday, officials across the state said Election Day appeared to run smoothly.

“Our hotline has been pretty active, but probably the biggest theme of the complaints is the long lines and the traffic,” Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice said last night. “There have been no significant problems with respect to voter ID law. As far as we know, no voters have been turned away because of it.”

Voters clutching their wallets or driver’s licenses waited in line for as long as two hours, but state officials and moderators at 15 polling locations surveyed by the Monitor said there were few complaints about the voter ID law.

At many locations, poll workers met voters at the door and directed them into two different lines – one for registered voters with an ID, and a second line for voter registration or for voters without identification.

After registering to vote or signing an affidavit to confirm their identity, voters joined the other line and showed their IDs or affidavits to receive a ballot.

“I just showed my driver’s license and it went slick,” said Pat Prescott, a 78-year-old Concord resident who voted at Broken Ground School.

One woman stormed out of Concord’s Ward 3 polling place at Beaver Meadow Golf Course yesterday morning after she was asked to show an ID, said Moderator Cinda D’Amante. The woman returned several minutes later with an ID, D’Amante said.

At Parker Varney School in Manchester, 36-year-old Brian Tassi said he wasn’t aware of the new voter ID law. When asked for his ID, he left the line to find his wallet in his car. “I don’t go too far without it,” he said, and he didn’t mind showing his driver’s license at the polls.

Of polling locations the Monitor visited yesterday, Concord’s Ward 9 at Havenwood-Heritage Heights retirement center reported the highest number of voters signing affidavits. Moderator Stephen Ludwick said about 50 voters signed affidavits confirming their identity instead of showing an ID.

“A lot of them have been the Havenwood residents who are elderly,” Ludwick said. “They live here, they don’t drive . . . so signing the affidavit has allowed them to continue voting.”

The Rev. Bryce Cleveland, 82, of Henniker and his wife, who declined to provide her name, did not know about the law until they showed up at the polls. His wife did not have her driver’s license with her but said it was an easy process to fill out the affidavit.

“I don’t object to the principle,” Cleveland said. But “we weren’t aware it was an obligation; it’s something that was sprung on us when we arrived.”

Another Henniker voter, Joan O’Connor, did know about the law but thought about not bringing her ID in protest. Although she made a last-minute decision not to after reading an editorial in yesterday’s Monitor, she still voiced her concerns at the polls.

“But I told them verbally up there,” she said. “I said to the ladies up there ‘I’m giving you my ID, but I’m opposed to that Republican law and we’re going to change it next time!’ ”

Democrat Maggie Hassan, who was elected governor last night, has voiced support for a repeal of the voter ID law, which was passed by the state Legislature this year over Gov. John Lynch’s veto.

In Allenstown yesterday afternoon, Moderator Dennis Fowler said more voters were coming to the polls than in 2008. By 4:30 p.m., nine voters out of 1,580 had signed affidavits instead of showing an ID.

“I think having a kind of dry run for the primary made a difference,” Fowler said.

The attorney general’s office received some questions from moderators about voter registration and affidavit forms, Rice said. She did not know how many calls her office received but said problems were not “system-wide.”

In Henniker, poll workers ran into some trouble with students registering to vote. Many New England College students came with affidavits already filled out. The supervisor denied those forms and made the students fill them out again, Moderator Wayne Colby said.

Officials there received a call from the attorney general’s office about 2:30 p.m., saying some people had complained and that the forms were valid. The entire situation was cordial, Colby said, and after the call the supervisor began accepting the forms.

At Memorial High School in Manchester, officials called city hall to ask for help as lines for new voter registrations wrapped around a long hallway yesterday afternoon.

“It has been a zoo,” said Ward 8 Clerk Lynn Lavigne.

Long lines caused voting to continue late last night. In Londonderry, polls closed at 8 p.m., but WMUR reported that voters continued to cast ballots until 9:45 p.m.

Concord City Clerk Janice Bonenfant said polls were busy throughout the day.

“We’ve had one ward that needed extra voter registration forms, but nothing that exciting,” Bonenfant said.

Rice said the attorney general’s office sent officials to especially crowded polls to help officials handle long lines.

“The reality is there are just a lot of people wanting to vote . . . and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” Rice said.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal. Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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