NH Week in Review for Aug. 27: Voter reform law challenged

Aug 27, 2017

Election reform and voter fraud took the stage this week in featured roles. The state’s new voter residency requirement law was challenged in court, while the election fraud commission of President Donald Trump announced it will meet in New Hampshire next month.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party and the New Hampshire League of Women Voters sued this week to prevent implementation of the law known as SB 3 when it was enacted by the state Legislature. The measure seeks to reform election laws by requiring that individuals registering to vote provide proof of intent to be domiciled in the state, and in some cases complete a lengthy affidavit.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald were named as defendants in the lawsuit that argues the law violates the state and federal constitutions by unlawfully burdening the fundamental right to vote and denying certain citizens equal protection under the law.

See a Union Leader story here.

Republicans who pushed the law argue the residency requirement clarification was necessary to eliminate voter fraud. State Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the law is "creating a solution to a problem they have no evidence exists” since no cases of fraud have been advanced in the Granite State.

It is the perception of fraud that prompted Trump to create his Election Integrity Commission, of which Gardner is a member.

In June, the commission requested any records considered public by states, including driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers, though no state is supplying every item on the list.

In New Hampshire, two lawmakers and a civil liberties group sued Gardner to block him from sending names, addresses, party affiliation and history of voting. Under an agreement reached this month, New Hampshire will send millions of scanned, unsearchable images of voter data to the commission.

Gardner announced that the commission will meet Sept. 12 at Saint Anselm College. Trump had singled out New Hampshire as one state where voter fraud prevented him from winning the state’s popular vote in the November election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Gardner has invited one of the commission’s critics - U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY -- to attend the meeting, as well as members of the state’s congressional delegation, all Democrats.
See a Union Leader story here.

Changes in corrections system

Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Christopher Sununu in the past week after 12 years on the job. “I believe our work record reflects that we have raised the bar by always demanding that we strive for excellence. It is now time for me to pass on the baton to the next person to continue building upon all that we have accomplished.,” he said in his letter to Sununu. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Wrenn’s resignation came amidst continuing concern about opening of the new state prison for women, which has been delayed because of lack of staffing. Officials hope to open the new facility in late October or early November.

In the meantime, the Executive Council has renewed a lease with Hillsborough County for continued use of the old county jail in Goffstown as the state’s women’s prison, at a cost of $2.5 million until the new $48 million prison finally opens. See a Union Leader story here.

And the union representing New Hampshire prison guards, Teamsters Local 633, on Monday reiterated its claim that the state prison system is "in deep crisis" due to a shortage of correctional officers, as fact-finding gets under way in the labor dispute. See a Union Leader story here.

Also in NH

A white nationalist from Keene is being held pending a bond hearing after turning himself in to Virginia authorities for his role in the violent protests in Charlottesville earlier this month. Christopher Cantwell was wanted on three felony charges for his alleged role in the rally of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members that turned into a violent melee with counter-protesters. See a Concord Monitor story here.

The lack of school bus drivers is creating some problems in Northwood. Lack of certified drivers was cited as the reason why the school board has pushed the start of school back to 10 a.m. See an NH1 story here.

The N.H. Fish and Game Commission says it disagrees with the effort by Gov. Sununu to stop long-standing plans to create a new state boat launch on Lake Sunapee. The commission in a public letter urged the governor to reconsider, saying it is required by law to provide public access to state waters, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of state funds have already been invested in the project. In July, Sununu said  "Enough is enough” and cited environmental and traffic concerns from nearby residents. See an NHPR story here.

The Executive Council this week approved about $1 million in state grant to fight opioid addiction. The money is going to programs such as Serenity Place in Manchester and Harbor Homes in Nashua. See a Union Leader story here.

Meanwhile, the opioid crisis took a dangerous turn this week as Manchester emergency personnel reported they treated more than 40 overdoses since last Saturday, which one first responder called “an incredible amount of calls.” See a WMUR report here.

Infrastructure at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and subsidizing a biomass energy plant were a couple of the topics up for discussion on our Facebook page this week. We invite you to join the conversation here.


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