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N.H. Secretary of State, AG to Provide Updates on Election-Related Investigations

NHPR Staff

Top state officials will give an overview of recent efforts to investigate potential voter fraud and other election violations at a meeting of the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission in Concord.

The commission is typically tasked with reviewing questions about candidate eligibility, but no such hearing is on the agenda for Tuesday. Instead, the commission will hear a series of presentations from the Secretary of State and attorney general’s office about a variety of election enforcement efforts: verifying voters’ credentials, scanning for duplicate voter registrations and fielding election complaints on everything from campaign finance violations to campaign signs.

The Secretary of State’s office plans to focus largely on updating the commission on its work with the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is designed to flag the names of voters who are potentially registered in multiple states. The office declined to share the materials it plans to present at the meeting, saying they wanted the Ballot Law Commission to review the information first.

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office will go over its election law enforcement efforts on several fronts — including its efforts to follow up with voters who didn’t have proper qualifications when registering in the 2016 elections. The attorney general’s office did provide some of the materials it plans to present at Tuesday’s meeting because the reports had already been shared with state legislators.

Under New Hampshire law, people who lack proof of identity or domicile when registering to vote are still allowed to cast a ballot. Instead, they must fill out affidavits affirming they meet the qualifications to participate in the state’s elections.

After an election, the Secretary of State’s office sends follow up letters to anyone who filled out the affidavits attempting to verify their identity or that they live where they’re trying to vote.

According to one of the reports the attorney general’s office plans to review at Tuesday’s meeting, about 6,033 people signed affidavits because they lacked proof of domicile when registering between May and December of 2016.

The Secretary of State’s office was able to verify the credentials of all but 458 of the voters who signed domicile affidavits, and referred the rest to the attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s office says it has verified the credentials of 392 of those voters and opened three separate investigations into people who may have voted illegally, but those cases are still pending. Another 66 remain unverified — but the office says “this information should be interpreted with caution.”

“Please note, this does not necessarily indicate that in any of these 66 cases an unlawful vote was cast; rather, the [attorney general’s office] is without sufficient information to form a conclusion about the voters’ domicile,” the office wrote in its report on the investigations. “Having exhausted investigative resources, the investigation is suspended. Of course, if new information develops, the [attorney general's office] will pursue it.”

According to the same report, another 764 signed qualified voter affidavits between May and December 2016 because they lacked proof of identification. The Secretary of State referred 440 of those voters to the attorney general’s office, who was then able to verify the identity of all but 164 voters.

Again, the attorney general’s office notes in its report that this shouldn’t be taken as an indication that those 164 people voted illegally, just that their office “is without sufficient information to form a conclusion about the voters’ identities or eligibility.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the attorney general’s office will provide an overview of its work on other election complaints — like alleged voter intimidation and campaign finance violations — plus some historical context on similar cases as far back as 1998.

Both state agencies have stepped up their election enforcement efforts significantly in recent years.

The attorney general’s office now has a dedicated investigator and attorney who are focused solely on the issue, after years of in which just one staff attorney devoted half of his time to the issue. The office says that extra manpower will allow it to start providing more oversight of lobbying and campaign finance disclosure forms, as well as wrongful voting and other violations.

According to a report they recently filed with the Legislature, the attorney general's office plans to start conducing “randomized audits of financial disclosures.” Additionally, the same report says they will also "for the first time, be implementing a systematic examination of the financial disclosure statements filed by every candidate and political committee during the 2018 Primary and General Election campaign to ensure that each report is timely and in compliance with the minimum disclosure requirements."

The Secretary of State’s office has also been given more investigative power to supplement the work done by the attorney general’s office.

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