Voter identification isn’t officially back on the legislative slate, but an activist filmmaker has put the issue on a front burner.
Lawmakers last year introduced legislation to require voters to show photo identification before voting. The bill caused a stir, to say the least. The measure passed the House and Senate, but Gov. John Lynch vetoed it and lawmakers couldn’t override it. That put it to bed momentarily.
But during last week’s GOP primary, an activist group, Project Veritas, used the names of people who had recently died to obtain ballots at various polling stations in the Granite State. The group was able to obtain a ballot in 12 instances, according to Project Veritas. The video shows investigators obtaining nine ballots. In a Union Leader article, Manchester City Clerk Matthew Normand said the city updates voter lists monthly.
That the group used the names of dead people for the investigation has caused a stir in and of itself. Investigators cast no votes and returned all ballots.
Republicans used the video to point out why change in election law is needed. As it stands now, people do not need to present any type of identification to vote. Republicans wanted to change that.
“This video has placed a shocking exclamation point on the need for immediate reform to New Hampshire’s election laws to ensure that voter fraud does not taint the rights of our citizens to have their votes counted in an honest, responsible way and impact our state,” said House Speaker William O’Brien in a statement. “The nation has been horrified by the absurd level of ease of voting illegally here, and we should all be embarrassed that the state has not moved more quickly to fix a gaping hole in our laws.”
O’Brien said the House would look to pass voter identification legislation this year.
But Democrats went in the opposite direction.
“There has been no history of voter fraud in the state of New Hampshire ? that is until Tuesday when GOP operatives manufactured it solely to gin up support for a discriminatory voter ID law,” said Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the state Democratic party. “Their actions broke the law in order to make a false claim for the need for unnecessary legislation. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law — something that those involved with Tuesday’s actions have experienced before.”
Project Veritas (www.theprojectveritas.com) is a nonprofit organization founded by James O’Keefe, whose mission is to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions....”
The group tested more than a dozen polling locations. According to the organization website, there was just one instance where a poll worker knew the deceased individual investigators named and subsequently didn’t give out a ballot.
“There was nothing stopping our team, or anyone else, from illegally influencing the outcome of a presidential primary,” according to the website.
Repeatedly in the video, poll workers tell investigators they don’t need an ID to vote.
“...Instead of acknowledging the prospect of illegal voting that their positions have given the state, Democrats like Attorney General Mike Delaney have hid behind the reality that the people who commit voter fraud don’t come out and tell us, and that we don’t have the resources to look for fraud, so they suggest that it doesn’t happen,” said House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt in a statement.
Of course, requiring a photo ID to vote would help prevent voter fraud. Proponents don’t see a requirement to carry an ID as inconvenient and it would hopefully help to eliminate the possibility that someone could pretend to be someone else, alive or dead, when voting.
But the argument against it is that it’s a nonexistent problem, and that it boils down to another obstacle in getting people to the polls. That’s what the opposition came out in force with last year when Republicans tried to pass this.
Not everyone has identification ? the Secretary of State reportedly estimated last year that between 50,000 and 75,000 people don’t have photo identification. And Democrats see hypocrisy, since lawmakers are working on legislation that would allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a license. They say, shouldn’t it be easier to vote than to carry a gun?
Lawmakers last time around included language that allowed for provisional ballots for people without identification. The legislation also included language that would have created a process for people to obtain state identification through no personal cost. But then it became a cost issue at the state level, as reports indicated the law would have cost $1 million to implement.
“The fact is voter ID laws are costly and burdensome to the state. More importantly, they unfairly disenfranchise select communities who are legally entitled to vote,” Kirstein said.
And then of course, there was a controversy in New Boston where a sign was displayed on voting day stating people needed to have identification with them to vote, even though the law had yet to be passed. Democrats said people left without voting because of it.
Liz Tentarelli and Sally Davis, co-presidents of the New Hampshire League of Women Voters, wrote in an op-ed in the Telegraph last year the law “casts suspicion on the integrity of every New Hampshire citizen and it’s very likely to raise questions about New Hampshire’s standing to hold the first-in-the-nation primary.”
Maybe that’s true, but that film might be just the boost proponents need to recharge their batteries in this fight. It seems likely Republicans will tackle this one with more gusto this time around, particularly with a presidential election scheduled for this year.