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Voter ID law would strengthen elections

Last modified: 1/13/2012 12:00:00 AM
Criticism of New Hampshire's role in the presidential nominating process and of the manner in which our primaries are run have become as common every leap-year January as the primaries themselves. And while we are well suited to our place in the primary season calendar, the way our elections are run leaves much to be desired.

Our primaries are not true open primaries - an elephant cannot choose a donkey ballot, and vice versa - but are far more open than they should be. Same-day registration of voters who must merely sign an affidavit of residency, without identification or tangible proof of residency, provides ample opportunity for voter fraud. The motivated fraudster need only to know the locations of polling places, and perhaps some similarly motivated friends, to undermine the process. Voter fraud does happen; it can be prevented, however, in a way which recognizes the rights and dignity of the voter and removes any intimation of illegitimacy.

The first change is to raise the bar on fraud by removing the option of same-day registration to voters who do not have a photo ID and proof of residency. That would mean fraudsters would have to go to more trouble than falsely signing an affidavit, which no one is likely to ever challenge. The fraudster would have to collect fake IDs and residency documentation for every polling place they intend to defraud.

Same-day registration is not the only avenue for fraud, however. When confirming their name and address at the polls, a fraudster could simply read a name off the registration roll (open to view before them), recite the associated address, vote, rinse and repeat in another ward.

New Hampshire needs a voter identification law, one which ensures the fairness of our elections and which disenfranchises no one. So as not to overburden those for whom the $10 fee for a non-driver ID card is not feasible, the state would offer free voter ID cards. They should only be available to those who do not already have an acceptable form of ID and should be functional for voting only.

The card would contain only the voter's name, photo, address, voting ward and an expiration date. It should be illegal to use or accept for other identification purposes, such as age verification or cashing a check. The cards should be available only through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Punishment for violating such a law should be severe enough to scare anyone off who wishes to test the rule of law in New Hampshire.

As these cards would have such narrow functionality, their use would be limited to those who genuinely have need of them and can legitimately not afford the more useful but more costly forms of identification the state offers. Voter identification cards will eliminate the possibility for the disenfranchisement of poor voters, enable the effective implementation of an enforceable voter identification law and not unduly burden the state.

(Kevin Fox lives in Goffstown.)


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