Voters concerned about voter fraud this election

Monitor staff
Published: 10/29/2016 11:21:28 PM

Nancy Fraize of Manchester said she plans to do “whatever they need” her to do to help the Donald Trump campaign on Election Day. Including, if necessary, monitoring the voting process.

“I’m just going to show up,” she said at a Trump rally held in Manchester on Friday afternoon. “If there’s any voting fraud happening, we’re going to catch it. We’re going to be on them like flies.”

Laurisa Trexler of Deering said she was also prepared to do “whatever was necessary” to keep the voting process fair. And Bobbi Newman, of Royalston, Mass., who has traveled to Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., to see Trump speak, has been monitoring polling places since 2008, and plans to do so again this year.

“I want to make sure the process is done right, and there’s nothing illegal,” she said.

There’s no doubting poll monitoring has been a sensitive subject, as Ross Berry, executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, put it, since Trump called for his supporters to turn out on Nov. 8 to look out for voter fraud two weeks ago. Trump did not renew his call Friday, but supporters were still concerned about the possibility of the election being rigged.

“(Voter fraud) is so widespread, it’s so hard to pinpoint one instance,” said Ian McCormack of Dover, who is involved with the Dover Republican party. “I wouldn’t have a problem with Hillary Clinton winning the election as long as it was legitimate.”

But what is poll monitoring, exactly, and how does it work?

Turns out there are two different ways one could be monitoring the voting process during an election.

Brian Buonamano, assistant attorney general, said anyone who wishes to observe an election may do so. According to state law, all one has to do to observe is to show up and sit or stand at least five feet away from the voter registration table, so as not to overhear or see the exchange of nonpublic information between an applicant and the election official. Seating is often provided for people who wish to do so, and the ballot clerk is required to announce the name of the voter twice, along with their registered address, so that anyone could hear it.

A vote challenger, however, is different.

A different section of state law says anyone who wishes to challenge a vote must be either registered in the town or ward in which the election is held, an election official, a challenger appointed by a political committee, or a challenger appointed by the attorney general, but those are more rare, Buonamano said.

“During any general election, you’re going to see more election observers and challengers, and that’s perfectly legal,” he said. “It’s nothing to be alarmed or concerned about. Anyone is entitled to observe an election, but someone who wants to be a challenger has to be empowered to do so.”

And if a challenger sees what they view as a voter fraud, that’s also regulated by statute, Buonamano said. A challenge has to be given in writing to the moderator to determine if the ballot is “well grounded.” If the challenge is deemed valid, the vote cannot be received until the voter signs and gives the moderator an affidavit that states they are who they say they are. The moderator has to determine if the vote is legitimate before the voter can proceed.

No voter or appointed challenger can challenge a person’s qualifications to be a voter at the election day voter registration table, according to state law.

Berry said his party has discussed the subject of poll monitoring, but would not say exactly what the party’s plans were. He requested questions be sent to him via email, and he did not respond.

Members of the New Hampshire Democratic Party also did not discuss whether they were going to monitor the voting process, or the activities of Republican poll watchers.

Hopkinton Town Clerk Charles Gangel, recalls challengers and observers watching the polls during the previous general election and expects more of the same during this election. He said challengers have to have some sort of documentation proving they are affiliated with a party or have been authorized by the attorney general.

Gangel also expects any observer or challenger to behave themselves, particularly because this will be a busy election: he said the town is expecting 80 percent of its registered voters to turn out, and they are anticipating over 600 absentee ballots by Nov. 8.

“They should recognize the clerks have a job to do,” he said. “They’re not there to enforce the rules; if they see something, tell the moderator.”

Kerri Wahnowski, one of the supervisors of the checklist for Weare, said she imagines it would be difficult to tell if someone is misrepresenting themselves at the polls unless they live in the town or ward, because the information a voter provides, such as their name and address, isn’t usually put out for everyone to hear unless they are a new voter.

“The only thing I can imagine is if someone memorized the list of registered voters, went to the polls and claimed to have left their photo ID at home,” Wahnowski said. “Because if you forget your ID, you can have your picture taken at the polling place and sign an affidavit that says you promise you are who you say who are. But if an observer lives in the town, they might be able to question that.”

Wahnowski said the list of registered voters can be updated throughout the year. However, the list will not be updated until after the election, as it would be too difficult to update it as new voters come in on the day of the election.

“If someone comes in on Election Day and says they’ve moved here from Goffstown, I don’t have time to contact the town to see if that’s accurate,” she said.

Observers and challengers could also point out if the polling place isn’t following the rules or could prevent voters from exercising their rights, Wahnowski pointed out. This could range from not having accessible voting for the physically disabled, to allowing people with shirts supporting a particular candidate into the voting area.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309 ext. 309, candrews@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)




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