Residents can vote – and register – on Tuesday even without a picture ID

Last modified: 11/4/2012 7:56:31 AM
There’s been more than a little confusion over the state’s new voting laws. Newspaper headlines have gotten it wrong and so did a state Senate candidate on a recent campaign flier. But voting – and registering to vote – here remains pretty simple. If you have a photo identification, bring it to the polls on Tuesday because you’ll be asked for it. But if you don’t have a picture ID, no worries. New voting laws say you can still vote and register to vote on Tuesday without one. You’ll instead be asked to sign an affidavit verifying that you are the qualified voter you say you are, and your vote will be counted with all others on Tuesday. “No person who is a registered voter will be sent home without voting on Election Day,” Bill Gardner, secretary of state, said Friday. “Every person will vote the same way on a ballot that will be counted like every other ballot.” Like legislatures across the country, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a new voter ID law this year that Republicans said was needed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats and voter advocacy groups vigorously fought the change and maintained it was really intended to discourage populations without New Hampshire driver’s licenses, like students, the elderly and minorities, from voting. Lawmakers also rewrote the voter registration law, but a pending lawsuit has halted those most significant changes. The new laws took effect shortly before September and confusion followed. Without much time to get up to speed for the primary, election officials at some polling places were misinformed and turned away some voters who didn’t have a photo identification. Since then, Gardner and Attorney General Michael Delaney, as well as voter advocacy groups, have worked hard to bring election officials and voters up to speed. Presentation Gardner’s office gave a three-hour presentation on the new voting and voter registration laws to the state’s town clerks at their annual meeting last month. The New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and the Granite State Progress Education Fund have created a Voting 101 website for Election Day at The site includes a hotline (1-888-939-5932) that will be available Tuesday for anyone with questions about voting or registering to vote. The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire has provided guidance to local election officials too, and put its materials online for voters too at “One of our big fears is that people will hear that they have to have a photo ID to vote, so they won’t go out and try” to vote if they don’t have one, said Joan Flood Ashwell, who handles voter education for the league. “The truth is, you can use a lot of photo IDs or you can sign an affidavit.” In Concord, the Havenwood Heritage Heights retirement community helped residents get the new, free “voter ID” card from the state Division of Motor Vehicles. The card, which looks a lot like a driver’s license, is available to any registered voter who does not have a picture ID. It was ideal for the residents of Havenwood who no longer drive and wanted to vote with an ID. But getting the card is a multistep process. First, the residents needed a voucher from the city clerk’s office verifying that they are registered to vote in Concord. Then the seniors had to get to the Division of Motor Vehicles to get their picture taken for the card. Luckily for the 10 or so residents interested, the city clerk came to them with the vouchers. And Sue Pollock, director of programming at Havenwood, drove them to Hazen Drive to get their new ID cards. Kathryn Gregg, 85, and Marjorie Cary, 93, weren’t thrilled with having their pictures taken but didn’t mind having to show an ID to vote. But the Rev. Bob Wood, 89, thinks the new law is unnecessary. He’s been voting since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt and considered himself lucky to get so much help getting his new voter ID card. “I think it’s a way to disenfranchise a lot of people,” Wood said. As of Friday, fewer than 50 people in the state had gotten the newly available voter ID card, according to state officials. In Durham, where the university population means “several thousand” same-day voter registrations, town officials have been especially proactive. They’ll have between 70 and 80 volunteer ballot clerks on hand to keep the registration and voting lines moving as fast as possible, said Town Moderator Chris Regan. He and other town officials have been meeting with election volunteers to brief them on the new requirements. Town officials have also made trips to the University of New Hampshire campus to register students interested in voting before Election Day to cut down on the registration lines on Tuesday. “I would not say we are having heightened confusion,” Town Administrator Todd Selig said last week. “I would say we are endeavoring to inform people so they know what the new rules and are and can act and enforcement them accordingly.” And on Election Day itself, Delaney’s office will have 30 attorneys and investigators at polls around the state to ensure qualified voters can vote and to answer questions from election officials and voters. Some polling places, especially in college towns, will have someone from the attorney general’s office on hand all day, Delaney said. The other attorneys and investigators will spread out across the state so they can quickly respond to a polling location having a problem. That team will also do spot inspections of polling places to be sure the new voting laws are being followed. The attorney general’s office is also offering a hotline for anyone with voting questions or problems on Tuesday: 1-866-868-3703. “I think everyone has been trying to deal with it responsibly,” Delaney said Friday. “I do believe the communities have been doing their best to balance two important issues. They want to let citizens know what they should bring to the polls, but also say you don’t need (a photo ID) to vote.” Names purged So, what can you expect at the polls? For starters, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter a line. The state “purged” its voter rolls in 2011, as it does every 10 years, and removed the names of people who hadn’t voted in the last few elections. About 160,000 names were removed, Gardner said, and he expects as many as 100,000 new voters or returning voters could be registering at the polls on Tuesday. If you are registering to vote at the polls, bring a driver’s license if you have one. Or bring another photo ID and a utility bill or other piece of official mail that has your name and address on it. If you don’t have all those items, you will be asked to sign one of the affidavits. One verifies your name, citizenship, age and address, the other will verify your address if you do have a photo ID. Then you will be able to vote. If you are already a registered voter, bring your photo ID and give your name and address to the election officials. If you don’t have a photo ID, you will sign a simple “challenged voter affidavit” verifying that you are the voter you claim to be. You will be given a ballot. You can also get a ballot if the election officials checking you in recognize you and can personally verify that you are qualified to vote. By signing these affidavits, you acknowledge that if you are lying about your qualifications to vote, you can be prosecuted for voter fraud. You may see a voter being challenged on his or her qualifications. This happens most often in college towns, state and local officials said. Challenges have always been allowed, and as has always been true, only certain people may challenge a voter’s qualifications: an appointed representative of each political party; a voter registered in the district; or someone from the state attorney general’s office. The person raising the challenge must wait for the voter to approach the voting check-in table, and their challenge must be specific to a voter’s age, citizenship, address or identify. Regan, the moderator in Durham, said it is not enough to challenge a voter because he or she is a student, he said. The challenger must be able to say they have specific knowledge that the student is living outside the polling district. And the challenger must put the challenge in writing. An election official will evaluate the challenge and if the official believes it is “well grounded,” the voter can still vote but only if he or she fills out an affidavit testifying to their qualifications. Even those ballots will be counted with the rest, Regan said. After the election, the secretary of state’s office will send letters to the addresses of every voter who signed an affidavit to vote. If the letter is returned by the voter with verification that they did indeed vote using that address, the matter is resolved. If the letters are not returned, the attorney general’s office will investigate and decide whether to bring a voter fraud charge. (Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)


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