New Photo ID Voter Law Sees Smooth Implementation

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Hanover — A new element of New Hampshire’s voter ID law rolled out without much fanfare during Tuesday’s presidential primary. The changes, however, did prompt some Upper Valley voters to stage a protest of sorts.

Some intentionally opted to go through the steps to highlight what they describe as an unnecessary burden that may deter some from voting, while others simply forgot their IDs at home.

Hanover voter Dean Madden said he chose not to show his ID at the polls.

“(I’m) sort of opposed to it on principle,” he said when reached by phone after he cast his ballot on Tuesday.

He said he views the requirement that voters either show a photo ID or complete a challenged voter affidavit — swearing they are who they say they are — and have a photo taken as a “Republican initiative to suppress voter turnout.”

Madden said he is not convinced that voter fraud is a problem, but is concerned that asking more of voters might deter some from voting.

“The cure is worse than the disease in this case,” he said.

A potential negative outcome of the law is that low-income and elderly voters might be discouraged from coming to the polls because they don’t have photo IDs. He said it can be burdensome to get a photo ID.

He noted that the nearest Division of Motor Vehicles office is in Claremont. The other DMV office on the New Hampshire side of the Upper Valley is in North Haverhill, according to the DMV’s website. Claremont’s office is open weekdays, but North Haverhill’s is open only on the second and fourth Friday of the month, according to the website.

“The state isn’t charging a fee, but it is not free,” Madden said.

He said he hopes that voters realize they can still vote even if they don’t have a photo ID.

The process of completing a challenged voter affidavit and having his photo taken — the element of the 2012 voter identification law that was first implemented statewide on Tuesday — went smoothly.

“It was fine,” Madden said.

Some voters took the challenged voter affidavit and the photo in stride, glad to have a way to identify themselves when they had forgotten their IDs at home.

Hanover voter Rick Dickinson, who forgot his ID at home on Tuesday, said completing the affidavit and having his photo taken was “very fast (and) very easy.”

He said it took less than a minute.

The process was also easy for Dartmouth College senior Miranda Stein, who was dressed in an American flag onesie as she went to vote in Hanover.

“It was the first time in my life I’ve looked in my wallet and not found my license,” she said.

Town Clerk Betsy McClain helped Stein complete the affidavit and took her picture.

In Charlestown, longtime moderator Albert St. Pierre said there had been “no issues; it’s been steady,” with about 1,000 voters having cast ballots by 3 p.m., roughly double the pace of a Town Meeting 

St. Pierre said a few voters had come to the polls without an ID, but election officials were able to identify them as local residents and they were allowed to vote without providing a photo ID. Voters without photo IDs who are identified by election officials do not have to complete a challenged voter affidavit.

“It’s a small town. You expect that,” he said. “I’ve been moderator 18 years. You look around. Everybody knows somebody here.”

At Claremont Middle School, Ward I clerk David Roark said there had been no glitches with voting.

“Everybody’s pretty accustomed to it,” he said.

Claremont and most of the state’s cities had implemented the photo portion of the challenged voter affidavit during their fall municipal elections.

Photos were new, however, in Lebanon, which holds its municipal elections in March. On Tuesday, Lebanon election officials said a small number of voters completed challenged voter affidavits without incident.

Of the two people who had completed the forms by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Sarah Courtemanche — a supervisor of the checklist for Ward 3 at City Hall — said, “They didn’t care. (They were) both happy to do it.”

The story was similar for Ward 2 voters at the Lebanon United Methodist Church on School Street. There, three voters had completed the affidavits by mid-afternoon, according to Mary Brown, supervisor of the checklist.

Everything went “nice and smooth,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213. John Gregg contributed to this report.

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