NH Week in Review for July 9: Voter data release stirs political pot

Jul 09, 2017

Handing over voter information to a commission empanelled by President Donald Trump to investigate election fraud nationwide has New Hampshire politicians taking sides for and against.

New Hampshire is an epicenter in this political quake because 1) Trump cited alleged voter fraud in the Granite State as a reason why he lost the popular vote in November and why Republican Kelly Ayotte lost her U.S. Senate seat to Democrat Maggie Hassan and 2) New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner is a member of the president’s Election Integrity Commission.

The commission has asked all 50 states to hand over voter data related to names, addresses, party affiliation and records related to whether a person voted and, for primary elections, which party ballot they requested, going back to 2006. The commission also wants voter birthdates, records of election law violations, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, in states that allow such information to be made public.

Gov. Christopher Sununu, a Republican, supports the commission’s request, at least in part. He said the general voter information that is widely available to the public is fine to hand over, but not so the more detailed information related to birthdates and Social Security numbers.

"It is important to note that I have an agreement with Secretary Gardner that not a single bit of private information—birthdays, social security numbers, anything of the like—will be released at all,” he said in an NHPR story.

Gardner is a Democrat who is defending the request, saying in an Associated Press article that the limited information for the commission is important for the commission’s work to restore public trust in the election process at a time when some Americans believe there is voter fraud.

Others worry that the information is private and could be used  to create a national voter database as a means of disenfranchising voters or as a form of voter suppression.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff on Wednesday began circulating a petition calling for the Legislature to hold a special session to clarify the state law regarding the private nature of the data. The two Democratic members of the Executive Council—Christopher Pappas and Andru Volinsky—also oppose release of the data to the commission.

Gardner said he is looking forward to an opinion, likely next week, from the state’s attorney general on the legality of providing the information to the election commission. "I think, legally, we have the authority to send it," Gardner said in a Union Leader story.

Forty-four states have said they won’t turn the data over to the election commission.

On Thursday, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), joined by Republican state Rep. Neal Kurk of Weare and Democratic state Sen. Bette Lasky of Nashua, have filed a lawsuit challenging Gardner’s authority to release the information to the commision. See an NHPR story here.

Then on Friday, the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators—Jeanne Shaheen and Hassan—entered the fray by joining 24 other senators in demanding that the commission rescind its request that state election officials provide sensitive voter roll data. See a Concord Monitor story here.

“This request is unprecedented in scope and raises serious privacy concerns. The requested data is highly sensitive and after recent data breaches and cyber-attacks targeting our election infrastructure, we are deeply concerned about how the commission will maintain the security and privacy of the data,” the senators wrote.

Also this week

With the governor signing legislation that seeks to reform the state’s mental health system, the Department of Health and Human Services has put out a call to contractors and providers for more services including treatment beds and programs. See an NPR story here.

The state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED—as bad an acronym for a state department as you can get) is no more. The department had been comprised of economic development, travel and tourism, forest and lands, and parks and recreation divisions. The divisions of economic development and travel and tourism are now part of a newly created state agency, the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, with a commissioner of its own. The remaining legacy divisions from DRED—forest and lands, and parks and recreation—have been moved to become part of an existing state agency, the Department of Cultural Resources, which has been renamed the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. See a Union Leader story here.

The Rochester Farmers Market is reaching out to veterans, providing them with a $20 voucher to spend at any of the market’s vendors. See an NH1 story here.

Gov. Sununu said he’ll seek a disaster declaration to help towns and businesses affected by flash flooding from a storm earlier this month. Heavy rainfall primarily in Grafton County inflicted about $12 million worth of damage to roads, bridges and to campgrounds. See a WMUR story here.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court gave the attorney general’s office some ammo in its effort to make pharmaceutical companies accept responsibility for the overuse of opioids. The court said the Attorney General could get help on its investigation from an outside law firm and that it could force the pharmaceutical companies it is suing to turn over records related to their opioid sales in the state. See an NHPR story here.

We are discussing release of voter data over on our Facebook page. Other topics under discussion are whether underage drinking should be allowed with parental supervision and whether tipping should be eliminated at restaurants.





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