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AG clarifies voter ID law ahead of Senate special election

By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 24. 2017 11:28AM



The Attorney General’s office is providing additional guidance to moderators in a special election for Senate District 16, ahead of voting today, on acceptable forms of voter photo identification.

In a letter dated Monday on the state voter ID law, Associate Attorney General Anne M. Edwards wrote that there was "some confusion regarding the use of different forms of identification by voters," a reference to the special election a week ago for a House seat representing Concord’s Ward 9.

The moderator in that ward allowed some voters at the Havenwood retirement community, the polling venue, to use non-photo IDs, according to a state Republican Party complaint. Democrat Kris Schultz won the race.

Republican State Committee Chairwoman Jeanie Forrester, who as a former state senator advocated for photo voter ID, said such use is clearly against state law.

Forrester was further piqued when, last week, the Attorney General’s office indicated that the moderator was within his authority to OK those non-photo identification cards.

The AG investigator who responded to the polls had a misunderstanding, regarding whether the voter’s identification had a photo, according to the state, which is investigating the complaint that at least one voter in Concord on July 18 used a non-photo ID.

The Edwards letter clarifies the state’s position and expands on the existing statutes.

“Identification cards presented that do not have a photograph on them shall not be accepted under any circumstances as a valid voter identification,” Edwards wrote, underscoring the sentence for emphasis.

Acceptable forms of photo ID for purposes of voting are:

• A driver’s license issued by any state or the federal government;

• An ID card issued under RSA 260:21 or a non-driver’s identification card issued by the Motor Vehicles Division, Department, agency, or office of any other state;

• A U.S. Armed Services ID card;

• A U.S. passport or pass card;

• A challenged voter affidavit in accordance with the law.

The law also includes valid student identification, including cards issued by a college or university, Dartmouth College, and recognized public and private high schools.

Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, issued a statement thanking the AG for producing the clarification. She said the AG’s “swift action” would help ensure the integrity of elections.

“New Hampshire law clearly states that election moderators may authorize forms of identification not specifically listed in statute as long as they include a photo,” said Birdsell, who is chairwoman of the Senate Election Law Committee.

Stephen Ludwick, the moderator in Concord’s Ward 9, defended his decision to allow some elderly voters there to use their retirement community IDs, telling the Concord Monitor last week that he maintained authority to determine what was a valid ID.

In her letter, Edwards explained that moderators do have discretion to accept certain other forms of photo identification not listed in the state law. The law provides that a voter can present a “photo identification not authorized by subparagraphs (1) through (6) but determined to be legitimate by the supervisors of the checklist, the moderator, or the clerk of a town, ward, or city, provided that if any person authorized to challenge a voter under RSA 659:27 objects to the use of such photo identification, identifies the reason for the objection in writing, and states the specific source of the information or personal knowledge upon which the challenge of the photo identification is based, the voter shall be required to execute a challenge voter affidavit as if no identification was presented.”

Edwards wrote, “Accordingly, any identification that you deem legitimate for voter check-in, must, at the very least, contain a photo of the individual to whom the photo identification was issued and the individual’s name. For those voters under the age of 65, the photo ID also must not have been expired for more than five years.”

State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, who has worked on several election law and reform bills this session, said the voter ID law is not that difficult to follow.

“I find it appalling that a full four years after we passed the law local election officials don’t understand the law,” he said. “It just makes me wonder what else has been going on.”

The special election Tuesday is for Senate District 16, which covers Bow, Candia, Dunbarton, Hooksett, and Manchester wards 1, 2, and 12. The candidates are Republican David Boutin of Hooksett, Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh of Manchester, and Libertarian Jason Dubrow of Dunbarton.

dtuohy@unionleader.com


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