Bennington Election Report 2017

Year 2016 was a busy year for Election workers, starting with an exciting high-turnout Presidential Primary. Election officials are also challenged with keeping up with an increasing number of changes in Election laws imposed by the legislature.

As of this writing, there are 1092 registered voters in Bennington: 269 Democrats, 339 Republicans, and 484 Undeclared. This is a 13% change in the total number of voters: a 30% increase in Democrats, 10% in Republicans, and 8% in Undeclareds. (These numbers will decrease slightly when we record the changes from voters who moved prior to the most recent election.)

On a personal note, we are saddened to hear of the passage of Barbara Moorehead, who served as Supervisor of the Checklist for many years. Barbara's presence always brightened up the room, and we miss her very much. Whatever afterlife you believe in, you can imagine that Barbara is livening up the party there. Barbara would often remind us that her grandmother was a suffragette, working to enfranchise women in the days before they were allowed to vote.  Registering voters had personal significance to Barbara, as she felt as though she was continuing her grandmother's legacy.

There has been some talk in political circles about irregularities in voting in New Hampshire: tales of voters flocking across the border to exploit our Same Day voter registration system and skew the election. These are very serious charges, as they reflect upon the integrity of every election official in the state, from the Supervisors of the Checklist on up to the Secretary of State. An explanation of how Same Day voter registration works might help to shed some light on these accusations:

When a new voter comes to our table to register, the Supervisors ask him or her to present to us proof of domicile. For all intents and purposes, domicile is the same as residence: it is the place where most of your possessions are and where you normally lay your head on your pillow at night. (This is actually called the “pillow test” by election officials.) Usually this information is on the voter's drivers' license or can be proven by bringing in an electric bill, tax bill, lease agreement, or anything that has both your name and your residence address on it.

Voters who have recently moved and haven't changed their drivers' license yet can fill out an affidavit with a photo. These affidavits are reported to the Secretary of State and can be used to verify each voter's identity and whether he or she voted in the correct location. All of this can be considered the first line of defense against in-person voter fraud. The second line of defense is reciprocity:

Reciprocity is the process by which voter data is entered into our statewide voter checklist and checked against all other voters in the state. All of the information that new voters enter on their registration forms is compared to all other registered voters in the state. A cross-comparison of First, Middle, and Last name as well as Date of Birth will bring up any duplicate records in the data base. Voters who have moved and voted in a new town are migrated into the Bennington checklist. Every voter who voted in the current election is bar-code scanned.

These two processes: entering new voters and scanning voter election history will turn up any voters in-state who voted twice. On top of that, new registrants are warned on their election forms that they will suffer “the pains and penalties of purgery” and a significant fine if they vote fraudulently. In addition to in-state verification, New Hampshire has reciprocity (cross-comparison of voter registrations) with all of the states in New England and will soon be adding more states to the list that we share information with. Since 2012, only 3 cases of voter fraud have neede to be prosecuted by the Attorney General's office. This is hardly a horde.

In light of all of the hard work that Election officials do, charges that voters are being bused across state lines to vote are spurious and divisive. But more importantly, if similar charges are used to force legislative changes that impose more work on election officials for little benefit; changes that can have a chilling effect on legitimate voters exercising a right garaunteed them by the Constitution - these sorts of statements are irresponsible and should be challenged.

It appears that Barbara Moorehead's grandmother's work is not over.

See you at the polls!

Brenda Gibbons, Melissa Searles, Victoria Turner,