Groups consider challenge to NH voter ID law

Posted Sept. 16, 2012, at 5:55 a.m.

CONCORD, N.H. — After saying they had received complaints from voters in nearly two dozen communities regarding the state’s new voter ID law, the League of Women Voters and the New Hampshire chapter of the Civil Liberties Union are contemplating a legal challenge.

Claire Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, said the complaints ran the gamut from signs in polling places saying identification was required, to some voters claiming they were told they had to show a photo ID before they could vote.

“The debacle that occurred in some places yesterday may impact the decision on whether to challenge the voter ID law,” Ebel said yesterday. “Information given may give more credence to challenging that law.”

Meanwhile, in Manchester a ward moderator said he asked a Hispanic activist where she was from because he believed she worked for a media organization, and they had a confrontation after she started taking photographs.

“Nobody would ask where are you from meaning what country are you from,” said the Ward 8 Moderator Alan Peduzzi.

Eva Castillo, a member of Gov. John Lynch’s Latino affairs commission and the Manchester Police Commission, had told the Union Leader last week that she believed the question was related to her accent. She said the poll workers became concerned when she started taking photographs of a sign spelling out the new election law.

She also said a poll workers twice told her she needed to show an ID to get a ballot.

Peduzzi said the city clerk and an Attorney General investigator visited his ward after the incident.

Under the new state law, poll workers were to ask for identification, but if a voter didn’t want to provide identification, poll workers were to inform the individual about the changes in voter ID laws and give them a ballot.

No voter ID will be necessary at the general election in November, either, though voters without IDs will be asked to fill out an affidavit stating their address.

Ebel said she heard of issues related to the new requirement occurring in Barrington, Boscawen, Canterbury, Chichester, Epping, Farmington, Goffstown, Kensington, Londonderry, Manchester, Newmarket, Pelham, Peterborough, Rollinsford, Salem and Thornton.

Election officials and voters surveyed in Concord, Boscawen, Tilton and Allenstown said that the bulk of voters had no problems showing a driver’s license or other acceptable identification. However, confusion hovered over what, exactly, will happen in subsequent elections, and concerns remained that vulnerable populations could be disenfranchised because of the new law.

IDs considered acceptable include a driver’s license from any state; a military ID; a valid photo ID card issued by the federal, state, county or local government and valid student IDs.

An informal poll of several town clerks in southern Carroll County revealed no major problems with the new voter ID law required at polling places.

In Freedom, Town Clerk Elizabeth “Libby” Priebe said Primary Day voting was an ideal opportunity for a dry run of the new law that will require voters to show proper identification beginning with the Nov. 6 general election. Priebe said her office used the day to inform voters.

She assigned a greeter from the office to meet voters and explain the process. Overall, Priebe said voters were well informed of the new law. Out of 410 voters, only 45 did not have ID with them, some who had just come from work or left their IDs in the car.

“Some came in protest,” she said. The general complaint was the law is an intrusion upon voters.

“No one actually said it was ‘Big Brother’ interfering, but that was the overtone,” she said. Other voters told her they thought the voter ID requirement was “long overdue.”

Salem Town Clerk Susan Wall said the voter ID practice run went well, with very few people showing up without proper ID. The practice was helpful, Wall said.

“It will make a smooth transition for the presidential election in November,” said Wall.

In Windham, out of 1,701 residents who cast ballots, 91 people didn’t have proper ID. The majority of the public was in favor of the practice run and excited to receive the information on the new legislation, said Windham Town Clerk Nicole Merrill

“We’re not denying anyone the right to vote, we’re just required to do this now,” Merrill said.

(c)2012 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

Visit The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) at www.unionleader.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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