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State Says 'Miscommunication' to Blame for Notice Telling Towns to Remove Voters from Checklists

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The Secretary of State’s office says “miscommunication” is to blame for a message that appeared to direct local officials to strike the names of some voters from checklists without notifying them first.

“It was miscommunication, pure and simple,” Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said. “What should have been a very quiet summer for us has actually been incredibly busy. There are a number of groups that have filed lawsuits against the election laws, and they file those against our office — so we’re dealing with that. We’re dealing with numerous right-to-know requests. We’re trying to train election officials. There’s only so many of us that can go around.”

“You can understand how a miscommunication can take place,” Scanlan added, “and we just have to work harder at it, that’s all.”

The error stemmed from a notice that appeared recently on the internal website used by local clerks and checklist supervisors across the state.

That initial message listed the names of local voters who were flagged as part of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program for allegedly being registered to vote in another state — and told local election workers to “strike” those voters’ names from the local checklists.

Doing so, however, could have violated state law. Checklist supervisors in New Hampshire have to follow strict rules when it comes to removing voters’ names from local checklists, and in most cases names aren’t supposed to be removed from the lists without giving voters at least 30 days’ notice. (The law is meant to give voters in question a chance to make their case before their names are removed from the rolls.)

Scanlan said Thursday the state removed the instructions about striking voters’ names from the checklists as soon as people started raising concerns about it. They’re in the process of reviewing the issue and compiling more accurate guidance for local election officials on how to handle names flagged through Crosscheck.

“What I can tell you is that no names have been removed from the checklist because of the Interstate Crosscheck Program, and no names are going to be removed from the list based on the communication that was sent out last week,” Scanlan said.

Among those who contacted the Secretary of State’s office with concerns about the original guidance was Republican State Rep. David Bates, who is also a local checklist supervisor in Windham.

Speaking to NHPR shortly after the issue was discovered, Bates said he was glad the state took swift action to remove the notice. Still, he was “puzzled how an instruction that, in my opinion, is clearly erroneous, could get sent out like that without being caught by anybody.”

“That would have been serious, if supervisors had started removing scores of people from the checklist,” Bates said Wednesday. “That would have been a real problem.”