New Hampshire to Release Voter Data to Election Commission

Now that a lawsuit filed to stop the release has been resolved, the Secretary of State will proceed with the release of information from voter checklists.

by Dave Solomon, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester / August 8, 2017
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(TNS) -- State House Bureau, NASHUA – The Secretary of State will proceed with the release of information from voter checklists to a presidential commission on election fraud, now that a lawsuit filed by two New Hampshire lawmakers and the ACLU to stop the release has been resolved.

The resolution was announced in a Nashua courtroom just as a hearing was about to get under way on a request for an injunction to stop Secretary of State Bill Gardner from providing the information to the election commission.

The case came down to interpretation of language within the same state statute (RSA 654), which in one part states “the information contained on the checklist of a town or city … is public information subject to (the Right to Know law),” but in another section regarding the statewide database maintained by the Secretary of State, says “The voter database is private and confidential and shall not be subject to (the Right to Know Law).”

The state maintains that Gardner is releasing information from the paper checklists maintained by cities and towns, not the statewide voter database launched in 2002 in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act.

The voter database contains information that is broader than that contained on voter checklists, including current information on the voter registration form, accepted absentee ballot applications, the voter checklist and voter actions as recorded on the checklist.

The checklist is only full name, domicile address, mailing address and party affiliation.

Gardner pledged in a letter to the ACLU and other plaintiffs that he would be releasing only the information from the checklist, in pdf format, essentially a picture of a document

Attorney Paul Twomey, representing the plaintiffs in the case, said Gardner has not been clear on that point for the past two months as the controversy surrounding the matter raged on.

The statewide voter database was launched in 2002 in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act.

Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards, representing the state, said Gardner has said all along he would release only the information that was publicly available, and that a close reading of the statutes would show he was referring to the checklists for each precinct, not the statewide voter database.

“Perhaps more specificity early on might have been more helpful in clarifying all of this,” she said, “but I don’t know that the lack of specificity falls at the Secretary of State’s feet. I think the plaintiffs were also not specific with what they were talking about.”

Gardner, who sits on the presidential commission, has contended for weeks that he has the authority to send information to the commission that includes a voter’s name, address, party affiliation, and voting history, which he has characterized as public information.

The lawsuit filed by the ACLU-NH and Twomey on behalf of State Sen. Betty Lasky, D-Nashua, and Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, claimed that state law prohibits release of the data in the fashion proposed.

Superior Court Judge Charles Temple was about to hear arguments for a preliminary injunction to stop any release of the data while the case worked its way through the courts when he announced the resolution on Tuesday afternoon.

The state refused to describe the agreement as a legal settlement, because that would suggest the state acknowledged that the ACLU, Kurk and Lasky had standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place, which the state challenged in its motions.

©2017 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.