EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 24, 2012

Anonymous mailings frustrate N.H. clerks

Town clerks are dealing with the results

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

---- — Southern New Hampshire town clerks are frustrated with mailings from political groups they say are misleading and confusing voters.

The groups, some of which do not identify themselves, are sending residents mailers that include applications to vote and unofficial absentee ballots, clerks said.

Residents are told they can mail the forms to their town hall to register or to vote by absentee ballot, but that’s not allowed, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said.

Registering to vote must be done in person, he said, and photo identification and proof of residency are required.

Clerks aren’t happy because it is creating additional work for them at a time when, only two weeks before the presidential election Nov. 6, they are already extremely busy, Scanlan said.

It also comes at a time when clerks and residents are preparing for implementation of the state’s new voter ID law.

Scanlan said these mailings are legal in other states. But in New Hampshire, they are a nuisance.

“It causes a lot of extra work for the clerks to help the voter through the process,” Scanlan said. “It’s tough when they have 10 other things to do.”

Some of these applications include the town clerk’s name and the Town Hall as the return address.

“It’s made to look like a request from the town clerk,” he said.

But it’s not from the clerk, and some local clerks aren’t happy.

“I think a lot of town clerks are offended by that,” Derry Town Clerk Denise Neale said.

Londonderry Town Clerk/Tax Collector Meg Seymour said she was surprised to receive a mailing with her full name. The voter thought Seymour sent it, but she had not.

Town clerks are receiving flurries of calls from confused residents.

“They say, ‘I’m already registered to vote. Why are you sending me this?’” Neale said.

Neale said when she gets one of the mailings, she calls the sender up and says they are not accepted in New Hampshire. Voters are told they must come in to register.

The only way a New Hampshire resident can arrange to vote by mail is if it’s done by absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are only sent to people who are either physically unable to go to the polls on Election Day or are out of the area, Scanlan said. They must complete an affidavit.

Many of the mailings do not include the name of the organization, clerks said. That frustrates them even more.

“Just like any other election (mailing), it should say who is doing it and who is paying for it,” Newton Town Clerk/Tax Collector Mary-Jo McCullough said.

McCullough said one of the mailings comes from RX NH. Scanlan said another organization that widely distributes the mailings — encouraging people to register by mail — is Focus on the Family, a Christian-based voter advocacy group based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Focus on the Family promotes voter registration through an initiative online called Commit2Vote2012.

Town clerks said they are prepared for the onslaught of voters expected at the polls on Election Day.

“We’re all set for that,” McCullough said.

Under the new photo ID law, almost anyone who wants to vote can cast a ballot, she said.

“Nobody is going to be turned away unless you’re not eligible,” McCullough said.

Voting in N.H. The deadline to register at town hall is 5 p.m. Friday. Many Supervisors of the Checklist will be available to register voters Saturday from 11 to 11:30 a.m. People can register to vote at the polls on Election Day, providing they show photo identification and proof of residency. For the first time, a photo ID is required to vote. Anyone without one, must sign a "challenged voter affidavit" and will be contacted by the secretary of state's office requesting confirmation they voted.