Opinion: Fresh leadership needed in the Secretary of State office

Published: 12/4/2022 7:02:34 AM
Modified: 12/4/2022 7:00:06 AM

Melanie Levesque is the founder and president of a small business in Brookline, and former chair of the New Hampshire Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee. She is running for Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State in New Hampshire is obligated to maintain and improve our democracy for Granite Staters. I’m running to be your next Secretary of State to ensure that our elections are secure, fair, and as efficient as possible.

As a former elected official who chaired the Election Law Committee in the Senate and the president and founder of a small business, my experience makes me uniquely qualified to serve as New Hampshire’s next Secretary of State. I will work to make improvements to our outdated systems, support local election officials, and protect our First in the Nation Primary.

During my term as chair of the Senate Election Law committee, I visited each Secretary of State’s office in New England. As I saw how other Secretaries of State ran elections and the evidence-based practices they implemented in their states, I was struck by how far behind New Hampshire is in making improvements to our voting infrastructure. We must lead the way, not follow from behind.

Our election system in New Hampshire is becoming outdated and less secure. The current manufacturer of our ballot counting devices stopped supporting our machines, as they’ve been out of production for over a decade. And we still do not have an approved ballot-counting device that towns can adopt as our current machines become obsolete. Our state has dedicated federal funds from the “Help America Vote Act ” in reserves to do this, but acting-Secretary of State Dave Scanlan refuses to utilize these resources for their intended purpose. In fact, a federal audit caught his office misusing federal funds to build the state archives instead. I will always be sure to invest funds with a singular focus on improving our democracy.

As voting rights champion, and personal role model to me, Congressman John Lewis once said, “the vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.” I’ve carried that sacred duty to protect the vote with me throughout my efforts to improve our state. As Secretary of State, it will be my mission to expand voting rights for every eligible Granite Stater while ensuring our systems are secure.

That has not been the case under acting-Secretary Scanlan. Scanlan consistently supports legislation that makes it harder to register and vote in our state. A recent report found that New Hampshire had the highest personal cost to vote out of any state in the country, meaning we are the hardest state in which to cast a ballot. That embarrassing statistic is a disservice to the people of New Hampshire, but it is not a surprise when you consider troubling examples from the current administration’s priorities.

Just this year, acting-Secretary Scanlan admitted that SB 418, a bill he supported, is likely unconstitutional and could stop overseas military members and their families from casting their general election ballots. This bill is currently in the courts being defended using taxpayer dollars. This isn’t the first time Scanlan has supported using taxpayer funds to defend unconstitutional voter suppression laws. Last year, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that SB 3, which targeted certain voters and made it harder to vote, was unconstitutional. The law was supported by Scanlan and cost $4 million of taxpayer dollars to defend. These aren’t just the wrong priorities for Granite Staters, they are a misuse of taxpayer funds.

New Hampshire’s elections work well thanks to dedicated volunteers across the state, but we can and must do better to support them, especially as we face down continued attacks on our democracy and election process. I will approach the Secretary of State’s office with fresh eyes, implement proven solutions, and provide a better service for all Granite Staters. With more scrutiny than ever before, our elections must be above reproach. However, during a recent recount for a state representative race, we witnessed that the current process cannot deliver error-free and undeniable results.

The complete mismanagement of the first recount left the results of a race unclear and mired in conflict. A properly regulated and managed recount process would prevent or quickly catch errors like the ones this recount experienced. There has been plenty of time to formalize such processes over the last decade, yet mistakes were still made during this recount; mistakes New Hampshire can ill-afford with the eyes of the country upon us.

Now is the time for new leadership in the Secretary of State’s office. New Hampshire needs a Secretary of State that will work tirelessly to ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot without unnecessary government interference. We need a Secretary of State who will make the office more efficient and save taxpayers money. We should be taking advantage of technology to update the way we submit campaign finance forms, lobbyist reports, and business filings. We can get all of this done with fresh leadership and new perspectives.

As December 7th approaches, I will work to earn the support of every legislator who is tasked with making this decision, and the support of every Granite Stater who wants to protect our elections and democracy.




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