My Turn: Secretary of State’s Office isn’t doing its job

  • Flanked by Cyrus Gregg, left, and former New Hampshire State Rep. Jim Splaine, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner shows the Republican and Democratic presidential primary ballots on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in Concord. AP

For the Monitor
Thursday, November 16, 2017

In the run-up to the municipal elections on Nov. 7, Granite Staters going to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website looking to learn how they could register to vote found nothing. Where registration instructions should have been, only an error message remained. Those would-be voters remained uninformed.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

The website’s malfunctions are a failure of our government to do its job. It’s the Secretary of State’s responsibility to provide eligible voters with the information they need and actively encourage them to go to the polls and cast their ballots. When they didn’t have this information ready, Bill Gardner and his office let down any and all New Hampshire residents who want to vote.

With municipal elections and two special elections held across the state, this information is important for all Granite Staters. The Secretary of State’s Office should have been certain they were just as prepared for these elections as every city and town polling location that dedicated time and energy to make sure the voting and registration process went smoothly.

This isn’t even the first time the state office made these errors. There were similar issues on primary day last month. The excuse from the Secretary of State’s Office in the primary was that they were updating the website to adjust to SB 3, Gov. Chris Sununu’s recently passed voter suppression law. These election day errors were compounded by incorrect voter information in several of the special elections that happened in September.

A month and a half later, these pages still hadn’t been updated by election day.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner must be distracted by his role on President Donald Trump’s sham Election Integrity Commission, which seems to be keeping him from performing his duties completely. Gardner has dedicated staff and taxpayer resources to take part in this voting commission. But just this week, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced that he was suing the commission following their inactivity and blatant partisan agenda. Gardner himself even admits he hasn’t heard from the commission in two months, adding to the already ample evidence that this commission is a waste of time.

It has become abundantly clear that Republican attempts to promote their voter fraud lies have distracted the Secretary of State’s staff, keeping the office from performing its job adequately.

The lack of information for voters on an election day is unacceptable, and changes must be made so this doesn’t happen again. Gardner must step down from the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, join Dunlap’s lawsuit to end this taxpayer drain and focus on giving voters the fair and complete information they deserve.

(Rep. Steve Shurtleff of Penacook serves as the House Democratic leader and represents Merrimack District 11.)