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NH to join voter-list crosscheck program

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau

December 15. 2016 8:18PM
 (UNION LEADER FILE PHOTO)



CONCORD — New Hampshire will soon be comparing its voter checklists with registration rolls in 29 other states, in the hope of avoiding duplicate registrations that lead to duplicate voting.

The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which started in Kansas, has been steadily enlisting other states since 2006, when four Midwestern states began to share voter data.

Proponents of the checklist say it’s an important tool in preventing voter fraud, and will become more effective as more states join. Critics say the process is flawed and results in many false duplicates, mostly involving minority and younger voters.

New Hampshire lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that authorizes the secretary of state to participate. His office is now compiling data from the November election for submission to the database.

“There are a number of things we have to do first,” said David Scanlan, deputy secretary of state in the Elections Division. “First, the data from the last election has to be input into a centralized voter database. That information is entered at the local level, and that process is taking place right now.”

Once all the information is compiled into a statewide database, computer experts at the State House will clean it up and make sure it’s in the proper form for submission to the national database.

“We’ll have to have a conversation with the managers of the program itself, relative to maintaining the privacy of voter information in the database,” said Scanlan. “We want the appropriate assurances that the data we provide is going to be kept confidential. Once satisfied, we expect to proceed.”

States that have participated in the program have turned up a lot of matches with other states, particularly in the first time around, according to Scanlan.

“That’s mostly because voters move around and it takes a while for that information to catch up with them in their new state,” he said.

In the case of duplicates, the voters are notified by mail and have to return a postcard verifying their address with the secretary of state.

If all goes according to plan, Scanlan expects to see a report on duplicate registrations with other states by February or March.

“Duplicate registration does not mean duplicate ballots,” said Scanlan. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the voter has violated any law. It just means their name appears on a checklist in two places. As a result of doing this, we may find voters who voted in two different locations.”

Critics of the program claim that it triggers widespread purges of checklists that disproportionately affect African-American, Asian and Latino voters and young apartment dwellers.

In an investigation of the program published in August, Rolling Stone magazine reported that since its inception, 7.2 million possible double registrants have been identified in the states participating, but no more than four have actually been charged with deliberate double registration or double voting.

Many of those same critics point to the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), started by the Pew Charitable Trust, as a more reliable system.

ERIC currently has 20 member states plus the District of Columbia, according to its website.

Scanlan thinks participation in the Crosscheck program will be a plus for New Hampshire. “Any step we can take to make sure our checklist is as up to date as possible is a positive thing,” he said.

The legislation that enabled the state’s participation in the program, HB 1482, started out as a bill sponsored by Democratic state representatives and senators to investigate whether New Hampshire should allow voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It was amended by the Republican majority to instead authorize participation in the Registration Crosscheck.

“The bill morphed away from our original intent, which was to have people get registered when they get their driver’s license, or to at least study the idea,” said State Rep. Bob Backus, D-Manchester, “but that sometimes happens.”

The bill passed largely along party lines, 208-140, with only six Democrats voting “yes,” and was signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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