New Hampshire Investigating Grafton Voting

Grafton — The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is investigating a complaint of potential voter fraud during Town Meeting in Grafton, an attorney with the office confirmed yesterday.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen LaBonte declined to go into specifics, but said a complaint of voter fraud led him to believe that there were sufficient grounds to investigate.

At Town Meeting, Mascoma Valley towns rejected a $21.8 million renovation proposal for the Mascoma Valley Regional High School, which failed just shy of the 60 percent super-majority — 1,809-1,245, or 59.2 percent — that was required. Although it passed in Enfield, it was defeated in Grafton, among other towns.

Since the vote, there have been rumors of an unusually high number of same-day registrations in Grafton. Supervisor of the Checklist George Curran, for instance, said that one claim that 50 people in Grafton registered on March 12, Town Meeting day, at the same address was false.

He said that in fact only 21 people registered that day, and only two people, a man and a woman, used the same address. By comparison, Grafton had 77 same-day registrants during the November election.

Curran said yesterday that he was not aware of the Attorney General’s investigation.

Some residents, including a Democratic lawmaker, have also questioned the number of unrelated voters who claim to reside at one particular address in Grafton. For example, the voter checklist shows seven people — all with different surnames — registered at the same address.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said last week that his office hadn’t received a formal complaint regarding Grafton, but he has taken calls about the situation. Scanlan told the callers to contact the Attorney General’s Office, which is responsible for enforcing election laws.

“They were generally raising suspicions of the number of people registering to vote from a certain address,” Scanlan said.

There’s also a recount scheduled in Grafton today for the operating budget and two other articles. Bob Cusick, a vocal supporter of the Mascoma High renovation, said he plans to observe the recount.

Grafton is where the Mascoma Valley Taxpayers Union was formed in 2012, and the Union sent out fliers to households both years encouraging people to reject the renovation proposal. The town has also been home to the Free State movement, a libertarian group who believe in minimal government.

Not all complaints made to the Attorney General automatically trigger investigations. When the Attorney General’s Office receives a complaint, LaBonte or another attorney reviews the allegation to determine if it might violate election law and warrants further investigation. If it meets that standard, a file is opened and it is sent to an investigator to follow up.

LaBonte said he had no timeline for when the investigation would be completed. LaBonte and one other investigator are responsible for pursuing all election law cases, and they are still investigating allegations in the state that arose out of the November election.

Cusick said he wants to start visiting all five towns and meet residents who are opposed to the renovation project in order to help persuade them to switch their vote in upcoming years. He said he also plans to ask the Grafton town clerk’s office — and possibly other Mascoma town offices — for a copy of the voter checklist, along with a copy of the people who registered on Town Meeting day and a list of people who voted without an ID.

“I’m going to stick my nose in. It’s time that they start seeing that people are taking an interest,” Cusick said,

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.