Opinion: An election official’s view on HB 1370 and HB 1569

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Published: 06-13-2024 6:00 AM

Iris Altilio is Supervisor of the Checklist for Pembroke.

I’ve been a checklist supervisor for almost ten years, and I have grave concerns about bills HB 1569 and HB 1370. Today, to register to vote, you are required to provide proof of age, identity, citizenship and domicile. If you are missing proof you can complete an affidavit, affirming, under penalty of law, that you meet the requirements to vote. HB 1569 and HB 1370 do away with affidavits.

Investigations by the Attorney General’s Election Law Unit determined there’s no systemic wrongful voting in New Hampshire. Secretary of State Scanlon said, “There’s no evidence that I’ve seen of any organized widespread voter fraud taking place in New Hampshire.” Governor Sununu said our system “has integrity. Our citizens believe in our system.”

Why change what works? As the sponsor of the bill stated, “If you want to vote you have to provide proof of certain things, citizenship, domicile, age and identity and that there really should be no exceptions to that. That is essentially what the bill is designed to do.” Just because.

If HB 1569 becomes law and you don’t have the required documents, you either get the documents, make an immediate appeal to the Superior Court, or don’t register.

HB 1370 offers solutions, an Election Day hotline that election officials call to try to verify eligibility and a conditional ballot that will be counted if the applicant wins an appeal in Superior Court or obtains documents within three days of the election.

On the face of it, HB 1370 seems reasonable, but it is flawed.

The timing is a fatal flaw. This bill goes into effect immediately, before the September primary if passed and signed by the governor.

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The Secretary of State’s office will have less than three months to put everything in place, educate the public, stand up a hotline, modify the voting system, voter forms, and documents, and train election officials. If it doesn’t work, there could be chaos at the polls, a significant number of disenfranchised voters and major negative press in the media, all so the primary can be used as a dress rehearsal for the major event, the November presidential election.

Why should you, a person already registered to vote care? An untested change of this magnitude will change the environment at the polls. Lines will be longer, tempers will be shorter, we don’t know how disenfranchised voters will react.

Why should I, as a checklist supervisor care? I stress over every application during the 12 or more hours I’m at the polls. Add to that calling a hotline, spending up to 20 minutes trying to get a voter registered, while the line gets longer and those on the line lose patience.

So many unanswered questions. How do I contact the hotline? Does the polling place have a phone? Does it have adequate cell phone service? Am I supposed to use my own phone, hand my personal phone to a voter? Have the sponsors of this bill considered these questions, or are they just assuming the Secretary of State will just make it happen?

Today, the onus is on the voter to provide documentation. If a voter chooses to use an affidavit to affirm eligibility, the onus is still on the voter. HB 1370 shifts responsibility for proving an applicant’s qualifications to the supervisor of the checklist and the hotline. That’s not our role.

And how many eligible applicants votes will not be counted because they don’t have documents, can’t get to Superior Court — the elderly, homeless, workers, mothers with young children, students — or don’t have the money to file an appeal?

HB 1370 is an incomplete, untested solution, wrought with issues, disenfranchising voters, alienating election workers and potentially embarrassing the state or exposing it to the costs of a legal challenge, all to fix a non-existent problem. I urge our New Hampshire House and Senate to vote against the committee of conference report for HB 1370.