CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire House approved a resolution Thursday in support of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary before advancing a bill opponents said would threaten it.
The nonbinding resolution came a week after the Democratic National Committee approved a plan to revoke the guaranteed first-place spots in the presidential nominating calendar long held by the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. Noting that New Hampshire has withstood previous challenges, House lawmakers affirmed their commitment to the primary tradition and said candidates are well-served by campaigning in a state with an engaged citizenry and “well run, free and fair elections.”
But a supporter of a bill to create a provisional ballot system later called the current system “laughable” because it allows people to cast fraudulent ballots with virtually no consequences.
Under current law, voters who arrive at the polls without the necessary identification fill out out affidavits promising to provide documentation within 10 days, and those who don’t can be investigated and charged with fraud. The votes themselves remain valid, but under a bill sent to the House Finance Committee on Thursday, the state would create a new type of “affidavit ballots” that would be thrown out if voters fail to follow up.
Opponents called it an expensive and complicated solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, and said creating a system that would delay the final results for more than a week would threaten the state’s ability to hold the first primary. Rep. Russell Muirhead, D-Hanover, noted that the secretary of state has called the state’s elections fair, free and trustworthy, and that Gov. Chris Sununu has called them secure, accurate and reliable.
“The right thing to do is to follow the example of Gov. Sununu and our secretary of state and tell voters the truth,” he said. “Instead, this bill indulges misinformation about the integrity of our elections.”
Rep. Ross Berry, R-Manchester, said he doesn’t claim that there is massive voter fraud in the state, but there is a serious lack of faith in the current system.
“You have to produce nothing. You sign an affidavit, it’s a piece of paper, it means nothing,” said Berry, a former director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. “Try to track that person down when they’ve given you a fake name and a fake address. It’s a laughable system.”
An earlier version of the bill passed the Senate last month.
By Holly Ramer, Associated Press