Two N.H. lawmakers file lawsuit against Gardner over voter information

Associated Press
Published: 7/6/2017 4:08:22 PM

A pair of lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to block voter information from being sent to President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of the commission, plans to submit data that is public under state law: names, addresses, party affiliations and voting histories. But the lawsuit brought against him by Democratic state Sen. Bette Lasky of Nashua and Republican Rep. Neal Kurk of Weare argues that doing so doesn’t fit the limited scenarios in which statewide data can legally be shared.

“I was distressed over the fact that this voter information was going to be given out, and the governor and secretary of state were pretty free about doing it,” Lasky, a former chair of the Senate Election Law committee, said in an interview. “I feel it explicitly goes against the intention of the (law), and I’ve always been a strong advocate of voter rights and protecting our rights, so when I was asked to do this, I agreed because I feel very strongly about it.”

Under state 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.

Another section of the law 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 that doesn’t apply either, the group argues, because the commission is not a group of states, its purpose is not to compare duplicate voter information and the commission plans to make the information it collects public. The New Hampshire law specifies that such information must be kept “secure.”

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of voter information for good reason: to protect voter privacy,” Kurk, who helped write the relevant statutes, said in a statement. “These protections would be rendered meaningless by the transfer of this data to the commission, which has established no security protocols and intends to post everything it receives online.”

Gardner said he believes he has the authority to provide the information, as did Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who said the federal government is simply seeking access to a database it paid to create.

Beyond the information that is public in New Hampshire, the commission also asked for voters’ birthdates, partial Social Security numbers and other details. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are refusing to comply, while others plan to provide only limited information.

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