Democrats call N.H. speaker a hypocrite on student voting

Posted Aug. 04, 2011, at 1:27 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 04, 2011, at 5:30 p.m.

CONCORD, N.H. — The chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party called Republican House Speaker Bill O’Brien a hypocrite Thursday for trying to ban out-of-state college students from voting in New Hampshire while his son voted in two states.

According to the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine, Brendan O’Brien registered to vote in Maine in 2009 and ran for state representative as a Republican placeholder candidate in the spring of 2010 when he was a student at Bates College. In November, he voted in Mont Vernon, N.H., where his father was on the ballot.

Election officials in both Mont Vernon — who include the speaker’s wife — and Lewiston say his son remains registered to vote in their communities, even though states are supposed to notify each other when someone switches.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is looking into how that happened, and the state Democratic Party on Thursday filed a right-to-know request with the New Hampshire secretary of state seeking information about O’Brien’s son’s registration. But party chairman Ray Buckley said those details aren’t as important as the larger contradiction between O’Brien’s comments on student voting and his son’s actions.

“This isn’t really about Mrs. O’Brien or Brendan, it’s about O’Brien’s sheer hypocrisy,” he said.

Earlier this year, O’Brien supported an unsuccessful bill that would have barred students from voting in New Hampshire college towns unless they lived there before enrolling, saying he worried that the state, with its lax definition of residency and same-day voter registration, was creating an environment in which people could claim residency in multiple locations. In remarks to a conservative group in Rochester in January, he complained about the high number of same-day registrations in Plymouth, home to Plymouth State University.

“They are kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience,” he said, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat.

O’Brien did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Robert Naber, chairman of the Mont Vernon Supervisors of the Checklist, said Thursday that Brendan O’Brien registered to vote there in 2007 when he was 18. He then registered in Maine in June 2009, said Lewiston City Clerk Kathleen Montejo. It’s unclear whether Lewiston notified New Hampshire of that change, but he then voted in New Hampshire in 2010.

Any such notifications would go through the Secretary of State’s Office. The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment Thursday, citing the attorney general’s investigation.

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