Editorial: Have faith in New Hampshire’s election system

  • Chris Sununu GEOFF FORESTER

Published: 11/4/2016 3:05:05 AM

Earlier this week, Chris Sununu, the Republican candidate for governor, using wrong facts and no evidence, told Boston talk radio host Howie Carr that “very sly” Democrats changed New Hampshire laws and are “busing” Massachusetts residents in “all over the place” to abuse same-day voter registration and influence the outcome of our elections. “There’s no doubt there’s election fraud,” Sununu said, calling the system “rigged.”

The next day Sununu was cleaning up his talk-show bluster. His image of busloads of illegal out-of-state voters was just a “figure of speech,” he said, meant to illustrate his belief that residency requirements need to be tightened up so there is “true faith in the system going forward.” Whether calculated or just careless with the facts, he raised suspicion.

Faith in our election system is just about all that civic-minded voters have left to hold on to after a long and nasty campaign season. Sununu can reopen the debate about voter residency requirements, if he is elected. Meanwhile, his reckless accusations, just days before the vote, injure public trust in the process.

Sununu, who is in a tight race with his Democratic opponent Colin Van Ostern, fed into the cynical effort by the Republican candidate for president Donald Trump – whom Sununu supports – to convince voters that Tuesday’s election will be stolen from the GOP by cheaters.

The unfortunate truth is the more you say the election is “rigged,” and claim voter fraud, the more people believe it, even though facts don’t back it up. A Republican at a Trump rally last week told the Monitor’s Caitlin Andrews that voter fraud “is so widespread, it’s so hard to pinpoint one instance.” In fact, according to New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, fewer than 12 voter fraud cases have been prosecuted here since 2000.

In his radio interview, Sununu said that four years ago “over 20 people” had voted in elections using a Democratic state senator’s address. In fact that widely publicized case, which involved four campaign workers, was investigated by the attorney general’s office and no evidence of voter fraud was found.

Gardner pointed out that, contrary to Sununu’s claim that Democrats set up the same-day registration law to rack up votes on their side, the fact is the process went into effect in 1994 under a Republican governor, Stephen Merrill, and with GOP support.

State election officials have also said that other than unsubstantiated complaints about vehicles with out-of-state license plates, they have no tangible evidence that a busload of out-of-state voters ever came into the state on Election Day. The “suspicious” vehicles could belong to out-of-state campaign workers or poll watchers.

Gardner believes the state voter ID law, which requires voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls, deters voter fraud and does not depress voter participation. He points to the record turnout in the February presidential primary. There were 542,459 votes cast, which includes about 64,000 voters who registered at the polls on the day of the election. Of the total votes cast, only 1,200 voters, who did not have a photo ID, had to sign an affidavit, and, for the first time statewide, have their picture taken to verify their identity.

On Election Day, any citizen can observe the process. “We’re going to be on them like flies” at any sign of voter fraud, a Trump supporter told our reporter. She will have plenty of official company.

The attorney general’s office will dispatch 30 lawyers and additional investigators to polling places around the state ready to answer questions from local voting officials about procedures. Democratic and Republican campaigns send their own representatives to key polling locations.

Meanwhile, we put our faith in the integrity of our election system and its safeguards. Most importantly, based on the facts, we trust the honesty of the vast majority of voters.

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