I am writing this to try to remove confusion and explain where NH statutes stand on voter lists. Forty four states are balking at sending voter data to President Trump’s Commission on “voter fraud”. Many are concerned about the Commission’s request given there is no actual evidence of wide spread fraud and our constitutional division of elections managed by the states eliminates a single national fraud attack.
William Gardner, our highly respected Secretary of State, was named to the commission and initially agreed to send NH data (minus social security last 4 digits) to Washington. Many people are deeply concerned about this action. Mr Gardner now seems to be rethinking what/how to send the data without further information about the Commissions use of the data.
The Commission requested the full last names, middle names or initials, addresses, dates of birth, political party, last four digits of social security numbers, voter history from 2006 to the present, active/inactive/cancelled status, felony convictions, information about voter registration in another state, military status and overseas citizen information.
Our state law seems to reject this intrusion into our personal information. RSA 654:31 provides for limited specific circumstances under which voter checklist information may be released. Under its section II, towns may release their own voter checklist information upon payment of the statutory fee, in the form the town chooses. Under sections III and IV the Secretary of State’s authority to release voter checklist information is limited to only two situations: “The Secretary of State shall provide to a political party or committee, upon payment of the statutory fee, “a list of the name, domicile address, mailing address, town or city, voter history, and party affiliation, if any, of every registered voter in the state.” The Secretary of state may also release this voter list information to candidates in the districts in which they are running.
Having worked on political campaigns for years, I am keenly aware of the responsibilities of campaigns for how we handle “turfs”, canvass and calling sheets, and any other voter information we have obtained. In my experience, we always burned or shredded them at campaign end. Having recently run my own first campaign, I also know the respect of our town for our list and the hoops that had to be traversed and verified to obtain the list – eventually through the state. Our privacy rights are strictly protected!
The only citizen access is covered under RSA 654:31, section II. It provides: “Any person may view the data that would be available on the public checklist, as corrected by the supervisors of the checklist, on the statewide centralized voter registration database maintained by the secretary of state at the state records and archives center during normal business hours, but the person viewing data at the state records and archives center may not print, duplicate, transmit, or alter the data.” Section VI specifically prohibits any use of voter checklist information, for commercial purposes, and provides that any such use shall be a misdemeanor. Our voter lists/personal information are not freely available to anyone to copy/produce for any use other than strictly limited voter participation activities.
Our state addressed the issue of people moving and registering in their new locations without cancelling their previous registration. The Secretary of State is authorized by RSA 654:45 Section VIII to enter into agreements to share voter information between states or groups of states solely for the purpose of comparing duplicate voter information.
Section VI of RSA 645:45 states “The voter database shall be private and confidential and shall not be subject to RSA 91-A and RSA 654:31.” The Secretary of State is actually required to ensure information in the voter database remains private. Yet the Presidential Commission has stated the information will be available to any and all who request it under the federal Freedom of Information Act, including commercial users making ineffective the provision in our RSA 654:31 VI enacted for the protection of New Hampshire voter privacy.
These are serious questions. It is not a partisan issue. A Republican and a Democratic Representative have together filed a lawsuit. If Secretary Gardner releases the information under the currently stated Commission plans, he may be violating our laws, opening our citizens to an invasion of privacy and well-being. It seems to be in direct opposition to our “Live Free or Die” slogan.
This issue requires careful consideration by our Secretary of State, Governor, Legislature and citizens. Please consider your thoughts about the issue and let them know