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Our Turn: New Hampshire deserves secure elections

Published: 5/24/2017 12:10:06 AM

Last year, the two most important races on New Hampshire’s ballot were decided by the narrowest of margins. Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump by a scant 2,732 votes. Sen. Maggie Hassan unseated Kelly Ayotte by just 743 votes. When elections are this tight, it is imperative that states take steps to secure the democratic process against fraudsters bent on rigging the results.

Now, following the alarming revelations that 458 fraudulent ballots may have been cast by out-of-state voters last November, lawmakers in Concord are preparing to do just that. Earlier this year, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 3, an innocuous measure aimed at ensuring that a new voter has taken the steps necessary to make New Hampshire “the one place, more than any other, from which he or she engages in the domestic, social, and civil activities of participating in democratic self-government.”

In other words, New Hampshire is doing what every state should: ensuring that its voter rolls list only actual residents of the state, not activists and partisans eager to swing narrow elections by crossing state lines and voting where they do not live.

To accomplish this, SB 3 tightens the state’s voter eligibility requirements. Under the proposal, someone registering to vote within 30 days of an election must “identify and provide evidence of a verifiable action” taken to maintain a domicile in the state.

Just what are those “verifiable actions?” The bill establishes a wide-ranging list, including renting or purchasing a home in the state, obtaining a driver’s license, enrolling a child in a public school, attending a college or university, or obtaining a state-issued hunting or fishing license. Residence at a homeless shelter would also be sufficient.

Eager to ensure that the new law would in no way hinder the lawful casting of ballots, lawmakers make clear in the legislation that nearly any document – ranging from a lease, deed or utility bill, to a government form verifying the voter’s claimed address – would be accepted as documentation.

For those lacking literally any piece of paper linking them to their domicile address, a simple “written statement from a person who is listed” on a deed or lease, or any “other reasonable proof of ownership or control,” will do.

SB 3 goes further still, allowing (as under current law) for same-day voter registration even if applicants do not have the required proof on hand. Applicants must sign an acknowledgment asserting their residency under penalty of voter fraud, and agree to provide the required proof to city officials within 10 days. That deadline is extended to 30 days in towns where clerks’ offices are open only part time.

So, who will be removed from New Hampshire’s voter rolls? Only those who cannot, or will not, provide even a shred of evidence to support their claim of residency.

SB 3 is a modest bill, and the state could – and should – consider going further. Even a single fraudulent ballot can change the outcome of tight elections, particularly at the local level.

Requiring photo identification and proof of citizenship, and entering into interstate cross-check programs to root out voters registered in multiple states, are two sensible measures that would help to detect fraudsters before they cast a ballot, rather than afterward.

But that is not the bill before the Legislature. Of course, that fact has not stopped outrage-seekers from attacking SB 3 in typical outlandish fashion.

Activists have denounced the bill as a veiled effort to disenfranchise college students, despite “residency at an institution of higher learning” being the very first “verifiable act” listed in the bill as establishing voter eligibility.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party issued a statement baselessly accusing supporters of instituting a “literacy test.” The liberal group Priorities USA has smeared the measure as “voter suppression.” Perversely, Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn called it “an attack on the legitimacy of our elections.”

In reality, the only threat to the legitimacy of elections comes from criminals and thieves who try to advance their causes through ballot fraud.

Citizens deserve a process that can detect and deter such illicit actions, and punish those responsible.

As New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, a Democrat and supporter of SB 3, put it: “You want a process that a lot of people trust and believe is working right with integrity and security.” The people of New Hampshire deserve no less.

(Jason Snead is a policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, manages Heritage’s Election Law Reform Initiative. The Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud database can be accessed at

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