EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 18, 2013

NH voters adjust to Voter ID Law

Clerks report few problems at polls

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — Only months after it was implemented with great fanfare, Southern New Hampshire residents have adjusted to the state’s new Voter ID Law, according to election officials.

Last week’s elections saw voters across the state casting their ballots with little difficulty for the second time since the law took effect during the presidential election in November, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said.

“We haven’t had one call complaining about it or any indication there was a problem,” Scanlan said.

Local town clerks and a town moderator also said they didn’t experience any problems at the polls.

That’s different than in November, when formal implementation of the law coincided with one of the largest voter turnouts for a presidential election in state history.

There were numerous questions, lots of confusion and long lines at the polls as voters were asked to present IDs and many people were registering to vote for the first time.

It followed a test run during the state primary in September, when poll workers explained the new law to voters and told them what to expect in November.

Voters in some communities complained after the primary, including those from Salem, Londonderry and Pelham, according to the League of Women Voters and America Votes, a voter rights advocacy group. The league filed a lawsuit to stop the requirement, contending it discriminated against out-of-state college students who do not have New Hampshire photo IDs.

Legislation is being considered in Concord that would eliminate or amend the law.

Scanlan said late last week he doesn’t expect to receive any last-minute complaints.

“If we haven’t heard from them by now, we probably won’t hear from them,” he said.

The law requires voters to present a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, at the polls. Voters also can instead sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.

Those voters will receive a letter from the secretary of state’s office, asking them to confirm they voted in the election. If they do not respond in writing within 90 days, the law calls for the attorney general’s office to investigate to see if fraudulent voting occurred.

The law’s second phase, which is on hold and targeted for elimination by some lawmakers, would require poll workers to photograph voters who sign an affidavit rather than present an ID.

Some town clerks and election officials were apprehensive when the law was first proposed, concerned it would be a nightmare to implement and cause lengthy delays during elections.

But several said they had no problems last week. Voters were familiar with the law and obeyed the many signs posted, presenting their IDs without question, they said.

“In general, the vast number, or 99.9 percent, had their IDs,” Salem town moderator Christoper Goodnow said. “It was not an issue.”

Londonderry Town Clerk Meg Seymour agreed.

“We didn’t need to tell them,” she said. “I think most people seem to say it’s not a bad idea.”

“They pretty much remembered from last time,” Kingston Town Clerk Melissa Fowler said.

Hampstead Town Clerk Patricia Curran said she was pleased there were no problems.

“It was a pleasant surprise that everyone was compliant and we had no issues,” she said.

Although most knew about the law, there was a slight problem.

“There’s always a few who forget their IDs,” Danville Deputy Town Clerk Doreen Moore said.

In each town, there was at least one or two people who refused to present an ID because they disagree with the law, the clerks said.

But anyone without IDs — regardless of the reason — opted to sign an affidavit, they said.

Twenty-three signed an affidavit in Londonderry, 20 in Kingston and eight in Hampstead.

There has been so much talk about lawmakers trying to repeal the law, some voters were confused, according to Newton Town Clerk Mary-Jo McCullough. Some voters thought the law was no longer in effect.

“I had some who thought, ‘We don’t have to do that anymore,”’ she said.