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N.H. Braces for Voter ID

State Wary Of Irritation

  • At the Obama campaign office in Lebanon volunteer Jonathan <br/>Teller-Elsberg, of Norwich, talks with campaign worker Patricia Lee, of <br/>Hanover, while she eats her lunch.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    At the Obama campaign office in Lebanon volunteer Jonathan
    Teller-Elsberg, of Norwich, talks with campaign worker Patricia Lee, of
    Hanover, while she eats her lunch.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Obama campaign volunteers Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, of Norwich, <br/>Jerome Doherty, of Woodstock, and John Chamberlin, of Hanover, organize <br/>election pamphlets for canvassing.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Obama campaign volunteers Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, of Norwich,
    Jerome Doherty, of Woodstock, and John Chamberlin, of Hanover, organize
    election pamphlets for canvassing.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rob Avruch, right, the regional field director at the Obama campaign <br/>office in Lebanon, introduces campaign worker Patricia Lee to <br/>volunteers, Whit Griswold, of Martha’s Vineyard, left, and Herb Ferris, <br/>of Windsor.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Rob Avruch, right, the regional field director at the Obama campaign
    office in Lebanon, introduces campaign worker Patricia Lee to
    volunteers, Whit Griswold, of Martha’s Vineyard, left, and Herb Ferris,
    of Windsor.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • At the Obama campaign office in Lebanon volunteer Jonathan <br/>Teller-Elsberg, of Norwich, talks with campaign worker Patricia Lee, of <br/>Hanover, while she eats her lunch.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Obama campaign volunteers Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, of Norwich, <br/>Jerome Doherty, of Woodstock, and John Chamberlin, of Hanover, organize <br/>election pamphlets for canvassing.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Rob Avruch, right, the regional field director at the Obama campaign <br/>office in Lebanon, introduces campaign worker Patricia Lee to <br/>volunteers, Whit Griswold, of Martha’s Vineyard, left, and Herb Ferris, <br/>of Windsor.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

— It could be a bumpy and chaotic Election Day as people head to the polls under the state’s new voter ID law, although officials say they are doing everything possible to ensure everyone who is eligible gets the opportunity to vote.

In 2008, about 719,300 New Hampshire residents turned out to vote, which represented about 70 percent of the electorate. Secretary of State William Gardner said he’s expecting a similar turnout this time, perhaps higher.

The anticipated turnout, coupled with the new requirement that voters produce identification before they vote, has election officials bracing for confusion and anger at the polls. But they want to put people’s fears at ease.

“No person who is a registered voter in this state will be sent home without voting on Election Day,” Gardner said yesterday at a press conference in Concord called to explain how the state was preparing for Tuesday’s election.

As it has in the past, New Hampshire’s Department of Justice will dispatch 30 attorneys and investigators, as well as 10 deputy sheriffs, into the field to monitor polling stations. Attorney General Michael Delaney assured that there would be monitors on hand in Hanover, home to one of the state’s largest out-of-state student populations, but called such safeguards nothing out of the ordinary.

“We also will station people at certain polling stations on a permanent basis throughout the day to ensure we have staffing at areas where we expect there will be a lot of questions,” Delaney said, referring specifically to college towns.

The new law requires election officials to ask for a valid ID from all voters, which can include a driver’s license, passport, student ID, or other proof. If satisfied, the person will then be handed a ballot and can proceed to the voting booth.

If he or she doesn’t have an ID, they will be required to fill out a voter affidavit form, which requires them to affirm their identity before voting.

Once a voter fills out a voter affidavit form, the Secretary of State will follow-up with a verification letter confirming that the person voted in the election. If the voter doesn’t respond to that letter within 90 days, the Attorney General would have grounds to conduct a fraud investigation, according to state officials.

In Hanover, town officials are hoping to streamline the process by asking people to choose one of three lines as they enter the polling station at Hanover High School. One line will be for those who have a photo ID, and sends voters straight to the ballot check-in. A second line will be for same-day registration, while a third line will have a sign that announces, “No ID? No problem,” and will send voters to a table where they will fill out the voter affidavit forms.

Deputy Town Clerk Betsy McClain said she hopes the “No ID? No problem” sign will make light of a potentially fraught situation and won’t scare away voters who don’t have an ID.

Four election officials will be staffed at the voter affidavit table throughout the day. During the September primary, 214 Hanover voters refused to produce identification, many of whom said they were doing so in protest of the new law.

Several election officials will also be sporting yellow and green vests, and if a ballot clerk or supervisor of the voter checklist has a problem or question, they will be available to respond.

“We’ve really tried to make it as foolproof as possible,” McClain said.

“How successful we’ll be, I don’t know.” State officials have also said that if a voter doesn’t have a valid ID, the supervisor of the checklist, moderator or town clerk have the authority to verify the person’s identity by sight.

But Hanover moderator Marilyn “Willy” Black said that she would not be confirming identities by sight. If someone doesn’t produce identification, they will be required to fill out a voter affidavit form, she said.

The reason, Black explained, is that the town has heard “rumors” that people might come to Hanover and give election officials a hard time over students voting. So in fairness, she explained, Hanover is going to treat every voter equitably.

“We’re going to follow the election rules very closely,” Black said. “We don’t want anyone to accuse us of playing favorites. If we were a smaller town, it might be different.” Black added that even if her next-door neighbor were to appear without an ID, she would demand formal identification, or they would be required to fill out a voter affidavit form.

McClain also fears that some people might come out to the polls simply to challenge a voter’s eligibility, adding pressure to Tuesday’s already burdened election process. In the 2002 election, the eligibility of hundreds of Dartmouth College students was challenged, causing long delays and fraying nerves.

By law, people aren’t allowed to conduct systematic challenges targeting specific groups of people. If someone were to challenge a Dartmouth student for not being “domiciled” in the town or ward, for example, they must also be able to provide a “basis” for that challenge or evidence that person isn’t domiciled in the town.

Black, the moderator, said she thinks the Hanover elections will run smoothly thanks to the amount of preparation that has gone in beforehand. She also said she’s not expecting many challengers.

“You can’t just say, ‘Hey, I don’t like that guy. I challenge that vote.’ You have to have a reason and it has to be approved,” Black said.

On Election Day, the Attorney General’s Office will also have a hotline for people to call if they feel their voting rights were violated.

Delaney, the attorney general, said that if there is an allegation that someone had difficulty voting, then an attorney or investigator would be dispatched to that polling location. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s toll free election line is 1-866-868-3703. The federal U.S.

Attorney’s election hotline number is 603-715-6355.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com .