Opinion: It’s time for NH to join the ranks of states using an election portal

By ANGELA BRENNAN

Published: 06-15-2023 5:00 AM

Angela Brennan is a NH State Representative for Bow and Hopkinton. She sits on the House Election Law committee.

Last week, the New Hampshire House passed SB 70, a bill authorizing the Secretary of State to modernize voter application processes through the establishment of an election information portal.

This bill came to the House with unanimous support from our colleagues in the Senate, bipartisan support from the House Election Law Committee, and earned a strong bipartisan ‘yes’ vote on the House floor last week because it is good for Granite Staters.

This bill provides specific instructions to the Secretary of State to develop the election portal in consultation with our trusted city and town clerks, supervisors of the checklist, as well as the relevant state departments. It requires that voter requests are processed by real human beings in the appropriate municipal offices for verification to ensure oversight, accountability, and accuracy.

If signed into law by Governor Sununu, New Hampshire citizens can begin the voter registration process, request an absentee ballot, and make changes like switching their party affiliation or simply correcting a spelling error on their street address online. Currently, voters must perform these actions only by paper mail or physically entering their town or city hall building.

Through much testimony, we heard from election officials who recounted having time-consuming difficulty reading handwritten forms, managing long lines, and grappling with lengthy (and costly) paper processing time, resulting in an overall desire for efficiency.

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The House Election Law committee also heard testimony from voters themselves about limited access to town clerk’s offices, especially in small rural towns where offices may only be open a few hours a week, making it particularly difficult to manage basic election application processes for working folks, disabled folks, and “snowbirds” spending a couple of months away from their hometown.

It’s clear: SB 70 resolves these problems while maintaining local officials’ important role in verifying voter information as citizens submit their information directly to their trusted local election officials through the portal.

This bill helps modernize an outdated system, makes checklist maintenance easier for election officials, increases the accuracy of the checklist, and offers voters the opportunity to choose the same kind of convenience afforded to them every day when they conduct secure business and banking transactions online.

The House Election Law committee amendment adopted by the House provides an opportunity to save taxpayer dollars by directing the Secretary of State to create a grant program for municipalities to access an excess of federal funds designated to “Help America Vote” for the purchase of new ballot counting devices and related voting equipment. The grant program would be designed and administered by the Secretary of State’s office to ensure appropriate spending from the fund.

It is my hope that the Senate will work to get this bill to Governor Sununu’s desk for signature expeditiously. SB 70 is good for Granite Staters, good for election officials, municipalities, and taxpayers. It’s good for accessibility, accuracy, and democracy.

With over 40 states already successfully using an election portal, it is far past time for New Hampshire to join the ranks.

It’s time to embrace the 21st century and modernize this small but significant part of our election system in the secure, efficient manner outlined in this bill.

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