EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 5, 2012

Voter ID Law could mean long lines

State's new law may cause confusion, delays at polls

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Town clerks say they’re all set for today’s election, but they wonder if voters are ready.

As New Hampshire voters prepare to choose a president and governor, there’s concern some people will be confused by the state’s new Voter ID Law.

But town clerks said yesterday they weren’t receiving many — if any calls — about the new law, which asks residents to provide an ID when voting. Anyone who does not bring their ID to the polls can still vote after filling out an affidavit.

Receiving few calls doesn’t necessarily mean voters don’t have questions, according to some election officials.

It may mean some voters aren’t familiar with the new law, despite major efforts by state officials, including the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s offices, to educate the public.

“I have a feeling there are a lot of people who are unaware of it,” Plaistow Town Clerk Maryellen Pelletier said.

It also means people will wait and ask those questions when getting ready to vote — causing delays at a time when Secretary of State William Gardner predicts a turnout of 70 percent. Long lines are already expected at polling places across the state.

“We have the perfect storm of causes where there could be a little bit longer lines than usual,” Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards said.

The close presidential and gubernatorial races are expected to bring many voters out, creating long lines. At least 100,000 New Hampshire residents are expected to register to vote at the polls as well, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said. That’s expected to cause further delays

Gardner has predicted about 722,000 Granite Staters will vote today. The previous record was in 2008 — when roughly 719,000 New Hampshire residents voted, Scanlan said.

He said some voters have been confused about the law, but it’s difficult to gauge how many still have questions.

When a newspaper in the state published a story last week saying the law would not be in effect tomorrow, a town clerk sent an email to clerks around the state. The clerks were asked to tell newspapers the law was in effect.

In addition, the secretary of state and attorney general held a press conference Friday to clear up any confusion.

Opposition expected

Edwards and Scanlan said yesterday their offices are hearing rumors that some groups of people are going to quietly protest the new law, demanding to vote without showing an ID or filling out an affidavit.

“We expect there will be challenges under Voter ID,” Edwards said.

Pelletier has the same concerns, but some town clerks have said many residents told them they support the new law because it would prevent potential voter fraud.

“I think we are going to have some people who refuse to show anything,” Pelletier said.

That, of course, means even longer lines.

Forty people from the Attorney General’s Office will be out in force today, visiting polls throughout the state to ensure compliance with the Voter ID Law and make sure there are no other problems, Edwards said.

Newton Town Clerk/Tax Collector Mary-Jo McCullough said she is ready for the election, but some residents she’s encountered have been confused about voting.

“They think if you have registered your car, you are automatically registered to vote,” she said.

Town clerks were scrambling yesterday to prepare for today, setting up the polls, fielding phones calls, dealing with absentee ballots and getting ready for the onslaught of voters.

“It’s been crazy,” Salem Town Clerk Susan Wall said.

At Windham High School, Town Clerk Nicole Merrill and others were busy getting the polls ready in the gymnasium. That included making sure voters were informed about the new law.

Merrill and volunteer Anthony Foppiano stretched a long pink and black banner across a doorway that read: “Have your photo ID ready!”

Clerks also were busy dealing with last-minute absentee ballots. The deadline to submit them was 5 p.m. yesterday.

Pelletier said she handled 10 requests yesterday morning alone, rejecting two from people who weren’t familiar with the law. One request was from someone who wanted to pick up a ballot for an out-of-state voter, which is not allowed.

Londonderry assistant clerk Melanie Cavendon said the town clerk’s office was swamped with absentee ballot requests yesterday.

“We’ve had many, many people in line all day,” she said.

Londonderry Town Clerk/Tax Collector Meg Seymour was busy yesterday afternoon counting some of the approximately 1,100 absentee ballots the town has received.

It’s dealing with the flood of absentee ballots that must be check and verified that has some town clerks worried.

McCullough was concerned about dealing with all the absentee ballots returned to Newton Town Hall.

She had received 179 as of yesterday afternoon, and the deadline for filing them was about three hours away.

“That’s double,” she said.

Voting requirements

Acceptable forms of ID include driver’s licenses, non-driver photo ID cards, state voter ID cards, passports and valid student identification. People who file a “challenged voter affidavit” will receive a confirmation request within 60 days from the Secretary of State’s Office. Voters are given 90 days to return the confirmation request before they are contacted by the Attorney General’s Office.

Anyone who has questions or complaints about voting today is encouraged to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Attorney General’s Office between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The attorney general’s number is 866-868-3703. The U.S. attorney’s number is 715-6355.