A Florida man is facing charges that he voted illegally in Hooksett during the 2016 general election.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office announced the charges against 45-year-old Michael L. Lewis, of Miami, on Monday. But the Hooksett Police Department first referred Lewis to the state for investigation roughly two years ago.
Hooksett Police Chief Janet Bouchard said her officers received calls the evening of Nov. 8, 2016 -- Election Day -- from neighbors concerned about a car parked along a road near the town polling place.
“It wasn’t parked where the voters normally go into park, which is unusual because there’s a huge parking lot for voters to go into,” Bouchard said.
Officers initially began investigating a possible stolen vehicle or car break-in, and they also received a report from a local dispatcher that Lewis attempted to enter the polling place but was told it was closed. Bouchard said officers arrived in the area around 7:10 p.m.; Hooksett polls close at 7 p.m.
“When he was told they were closed, he kind of ran off into the woods,” Bouchard said. “So because that was suspicious, we ended up looking for him.”
Bouchard said officers’ suspicions grew when they found Lewis nearby and started questioning him about where he lived.
“He didn’t have a New Hampshire driver’s license, he had a Florida driver’s license,” Bouchard said. “And he told us he lived at a certain address in Hooksett and we went there and found out that he didn’t.”
Bouchard said officers initially arrested Lewis for operating without a valid driver’s license but referred the case to the state for further investigation. Officials could not say why it took until now to bring any further charges.
Bouchard also said it was unclear based on her department’s records whether Lewis actually cast a ballot in Hooksett, given the police report that he fled when advised that polls were closed. The local town clerk did not return a call seeking clarification on the matter.
A Merrimack County grand jury indicted Lewis on charges that he voted in Hooksett despite not being qualified to do so. An arraignment hasn’t been scheduled.
Lewis is the fourth criminal case of alleged wrongful voting stemming from the 2016 general election to be brought in New Hampshire. The other three cases were flagged through a program that compares voter registrations in New Hampshire against those in other states. It’s not illegal to be registered to vote in multiple states, as long as a person votes once in a given election and only where they’re qualified to do so. But officials use the system to try to identify possible cases of double voting.
The state has also identified several other violations of state voting laws during that election, including a woman who cast an absentee ballot for her deceased husband several days after his death and a man who admitted to voting in two places for multiple election cycles — but those didn't result in criminal charges.