Two Democrats are looking to unseat incumbent Bill Gardner for the office of N.H. Secretary of State – Colin VanOstern and Peter Sullivan. Bill Gardner has been our Secretary of State for Colin Van Ostern’s entire life – 42 years – making Bill the longest serving Secretary of State in the nation. Bill is well known nationally as a “guardian” of NH’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. He has overseen over 500 recounts, including more than 20 that came down to a single vote.
According to the New Hampshire state constitution, there are no term limits for this office and anyone can run. It is chosen every two years by a joint ballot of New Hampshire State Senators and members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
In a controversial 2017 decision, Bill Gardner joined the President’s now defunct Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. In his January 4th statement, Gardner indicated that he had joined this panel to “maintain the most accessible and trustworthy elections” for the state of New Hampshire and was “disappointed the Commission will no longer be able to explore why voters participate and why, sadly, many choose not to.” On his website, Van Ostern states that his platform consists of standing up for voting rights and modernizing and securing state elections. Both gentlemen support protecting New Hampshire’s first presidential primary.
Colin Van Ostern is a former member of the Executive Council and ran for Governor during the last election.
While Colin has started a political committee, Bill does not attend political events, endorse candidates or accept donations. Different styles for sure.
Recently, Peter Sullivan also announced his interest in the race. Peter is a 5-term Representative, having served on Judiciary, Criminal Justice, and State-Federal Relations Committees. Highlights of his accomplishments of summarized below Read more on the following links:
On June 8, 2017, the Republican-sponsored New Hampshire Senate Bill 3, which may complicate same-day voter registration for New Hampshire college students, …… passed in the state Senate 14-9. It was signed into law in July. The bill changes what domicile means in the context of voting and stipulates that proof of residence is required for same-day voters, including a written statement that verifies voters’ home addresses. It also authorizes government agents to visit a voter’s home to make sure that it is the voter’s primary residence. A domicile exception is typically extended to college students. SB3 is designed to tighten this up by requiring that college students provide letters, or other paperwork, proving their domiciliaries when they register to vote.
The NH Democratic party, the League of Women Voters and three individual voters are suing the state over this law, under a single lawsuit, which they believe will keep people who are legally entitled to vote from voting.
In September, Hillsborough County Judge Charles Temple placed a temporary restraining order on the state to keep officials from imposing any of the criminal penalties part of the law. “The average voter seeking to register for the first time very well may decide that casting a vote is not worth a possible, $5,000 fine, a year in jail, or throwing himself/herself at the mercy of the prosecutor’s discretion. To the Court, these provisions of SB3 act as a very serious detriment on the right to vote, and if there is a “compelling” need for them, the Court has yet to see it.” Temple wrote.
In spite of this lawsuit, on Jan 3, the Senate passed HB372, which further tightens eligibility requirements for voters.
The state of NH has refused to comply with a request for a voter database, which the plaintiffs believe will prove that there is no issue to address. The state claimed that the information is not relevant to the case at hand and it contains privileged information that cannot be released.
In April, Judge Temple rejected these arguments and compelled the state to hand over the electronic voter database as well as make available communications about the law as it is being legislated. In addition, a protective order must be crafted to keep sensitive information private.
Three Republican legislators involved in crafting SB3 – Kathleen Hoelzel, Barbara Griffin & Regina Birdsell – filed motions to squash subpoenas seeking information that they had proving or disproving instances of voter fraud before last year’s vote.
The parties are having difficulty agreed upon the content of the protective order. Asst Attorney General Anne Edwards wants the court to support keeping dates of birth, dates of naturalization and places of birth out of the public record when the database is handed over to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed a motion in response.
A hearing on the protective order was held on May 8. At that hearing, Judge Temple suggested that he recuse himself as the judge in this case going forward due to a close friendship with Attorney Byron Gould, who was recently hired by the state Attorney General’s office. The litigants suggested instead that Attorney Gould be barred from the case.
In June, Judge Temple did recuse himself. Judge Brown has taken over the case, which has moved to Manchester. One of his first rulings will be to consider the state’s request that he prevent three college professors from testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs. Their testimony will cover:
The state now asserts that the issue is not voter fraud, but rather the opportunity for voter fraud.
With the move to Manchester, the trial, scheduled to begin on August 20, 2018, is being rescheduled.
And the saga continues …..
Is voter fraud really an issue in NH? The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is aimed at preventing voter fraud by identifying duplicate voter registration records among those voluntarily provided by states. Though there are some concerns over security and results, 28 states participated after the 2016 general election. Out of 94, 610 voters, approximately 140 records were required further investigation – 51 of which were sent to the Attorney General’s office.
Per the NH Grassroots Newsletter of Jan 2:
“Why this matters: On November 28th, an amendment to HB 372, authored by Republican Senators Regina Birdsell and Jim Gray, passed the Senate Election Law Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote. The bill would redefine “domicile” status for voting purposes, effectively forcing registrants to declare residency upon registering to vote, chilling the right to vote for college students in New Hampshire. By forcing students to declare residency, this bill would act as a de facto poll tax, moving the goal posts on students who are legally allowed to vote in New Hampshire.”