My Turn: More people voting in New Hampshire is a good thing

For the Monitor
Published: 6/8/2019 12:10:27 AM
Modified: 6/8/2019 12:10:14 AM

While the Republicans – notably our governor, Chris Sununu – claim voter fraud and lack of voter purity to push through and now sustain voter suppression laws, it is hard to understand why given that a tiny four instances out of 743,000 voters in 2016 were prosecuted. That’s a mere .000000538%! Yeah, we really have a problem with voter fraud in our elections.

But yet again we are faced with Sununu’s intransigence on this subject as he threatens to veto two bills in the House and Senate that would roll back recent laws that he supported making voting harder, and for some non-existent, here.

The irony to all of this is, of course, that Sununu won his last two elections by clear majorities. He signed a law to go into effect on July 1 that stops college students raised in other states but studying in New Hampshire from being able to vote here unless they meet potentially costly and bureaucratic requirements. (He flip-flopped on his promise to support out-of-state college students’ voting when he signed this bill.)

Not wanting serious-minded young citizens to vote here makes sense to the Republicans for this reason: They aren’t likely to vote for Sununu or his party’s leader, Donald Trump. If you look at the places where out-of-state students are likely to be, they overwhelmingly did not cast ballots for him or Trump in 2016. In Durham, where UNH is, Sununu lost the vote by 64% and Trump lost by 74% in 2016. In Hanover, where Dartmouth is, Sununu lost the vote by 76% and Trump lost by 88% in 2016.

This sad state of affairs is compounded now by another law signed by Sununu to discourage our more than 20 years of same-day voting, where a citizen can register and vote on election day. This law adds bureaucratic hurdles, and threats of fines and jail time, although it is currently defanged until the court or Legislature decides how to go forward. To lay the groundwork for this law, Sununu claimed in 2016 and subsequently that the Democrats were behind the “rigged” system of same-day voter registration in the ’90s and 2000s, when, in fact, the same-day voter law was supported by many Republicans under a Republican governor.

Same-day voter registration has been a roaring success and has not resulted in prosecution for fraud, with our state having some of the highest voter participation rates in the country.

The truth is, voter fraud has never been widespread; instead, it’s been miniscule thanks to the work of election officials in towns and cities in New Hampshire who work hard to keep our elections “unrigged” and fair.

If anyone is trying to rig elections, maybe it’s Sununu and his friends, like Donald Trump, who use the same rationale, almost the same words, to justify making it harder to vote. I, for one, believe it’s a good development that more people have access to voting in our state. I believe that is the core of democracy – having a say in how we are governed and by whom we are governed by virtue of our vote, which counts no more or less than anyone else’s. If that isn’t a definition of fairness, I don’t know what is.

(Margaret Landsman lives in Concord.)




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