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State won't narrow Right-to-Know request related to electronic poll books

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

December 12. 2016 9:59PM




CONCORD — The deputy secretary of state disagrees with claims by Manchester officials that a Right-to-Know request filed by his office is “excessive,” and has no plans to either narrow the scope of the request or withdraw it.

As reported in the New Hampshire Sunday News City Hall column on Dec. 11, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan sent a Right-to-Know request to Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand’s office on Nov. 30 asking for all communications relating to a pilot project for electronic poll books. (Click here to read today's related editorial.)

Electronic pollbook software would allow election workers to look up a voter’s registration, confirm their registration is correct and assign a ballot to that voter.

On Monday, Scanlan sent his Right-to-Know request after his office received a similar request from the group America Votes seeking communications from the Secretary of State’s office involving, but not limited to, the same issue.

Scanlan said his office filed its request to determine what conversations were being held on the topic at the local level. A Right-to-Know request similar to the one filed with Manchester was also sent to Laconia City Clerk Mary Reynolds.

“We want to see what groups were talking about on all sides of the debate,” said Scanlan.

Scanlan’s RSA 91-A requests seek any and all communications between the city clerk offices in both Laconia and Manchester and other parties over an 18-month span — from June 30, 2015 to Nov. 30, 2016 — related to electronic poll books.

Legislation was brought forth last spring by Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, seeking permission for Manchester, Hooksett and Durham to use “electronic poll books” during the September primary and November general elections. Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office opposed the legislation, saying there was not enough time to properly test and customize the system to New Hampshire election laws before voters cast ballots.

Scanlan’s Right-to-Know request covers any and all internal and external communications, electronic or otherwise, between the city clerk — and office staff — and any state and municipal officials relating to electronic poll books. Despite a request from Manchester city officials to reduce his request, Scanlan doesn’t feel the Right-to-Know filing is overly “expansive.”

“We asked for communications involving electronic poll books,” said Scanlan. “I doubt this will involve a high number of communications. The request we received from America Votes is far more wide-ranging.”

The America Votes Right-to-Know request, filed May 26, 2016 by Staff Coordinator Michael O’Brien, seeks the following:

 Any communication from the NH Secretary of State’s office, including any staff, to or from any city or town clerk or city or town moderator dating back to Jan. 1, 2014;

Any communication from the NH Secretary of State’s office, including any staff, to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office, including any of Kobach’s staff, dating back to Jan. 1, 2014;

 Any payments made to Sec. Kobach, his office, or any other entity affiliated with Sec. Kobach dating back to Jan. 1, 2014;

 Any communication between the NH Secretary of State’s office, including any staff, and the NH Speaker of the House’s office dating back to March 1, 2016;

 Any communication between the NH Secretary of State’s office, including any staff, and Dr. Alexander A. Schwarzmann dating back to March 1, 2016;

 Any communication from the NH Secretary of State’s office, including any staff, relating to electronic or digital poll books dating back to March 1, 2016;

 Any communication relating to complaints of lines or other polling place capacity issues from the 2012 or 2014 general elections and the 2016 Presidential Primary.

“We’ll comply with it, but it involves all of our divisions,” said Scanlan.

Manchester city officials believe the request has little to do with the poll books, and more to do with satisfying a “petty disagreement over alternative methods to modernize the election process in New Hampshire, or chill future attempts to do so,” according to a response to the request authored by City Solicitor Tom Clark.

Scanlan said Monday he will refrain from addressing those remarks.

“We’re not the ones politicizing this,” said Scanlan.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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