In politics there is always room for common ground, but in some cases there is very little will for people to make the journey. On the issue of election integrity there is overwhelming support for voter identification, ending same day registration, and residency requirements. The reason for this overwhelming support for these types of legislation is simple: voter confidence. Citizens want to believe that their votes matter and that every ballot placed in the ballot box is valid. Yet there seems to be very little middle ground from both sides of the political spectrum, not only in NH, but consistently across the country.
As of this writing, NH Governor Maggie Hassan is readying to veto a constitutionally tested piece of legislation that requires people to live in the state for 30-days before they are eligible to vote. I say ‘readying’ because there is very little doubt that she will let the bill become a law. In vetoing the piece of legislation, Hassan is going against the will of the people and the advice of one of the leading advocates for fair and honest elections, NH Secretary of State (SOS) Bill Gardner. SOS Gardner is one of the most respected public servants in the country, and one of the most consistent voices for voting integrity. Gardner, like so many other people, believes in the application of appropriate voting laws that protect the sanctity of the ballot box. However, their voices are being ignored by Governor Hassan.
SOS Gardner, a Democrat, has been very public with his support of the 30-day residency requirement, and has been warning for some time that “We have drive-by voting” occurring in NH that is negatively affecting the results of NH’s elections, particular the First in the Nation Presidential Primary and the Presidential election. Gardner has stated that there are at least two central reasons why NH has become fertile ground for voter fraud. The first reason is the confusing way that NH has defined ‘domicile.’ The second is same day registration, which is knowingly or unknowingly abused due to NH’s confusing definition of domicile. Correct the issue of residency, as numerous other states already have, and you correct the biggest issue affecting drive-by voting.
There are fear mongers on both sides that exaggerate the issue of voter fraud. One side believes that voter fraud is widespread, while the other side publicly states that voter fraud is a myth. Both extreme views are wrong, and part of the reason that we cannot come up with a reasonable set of voter laws that protects the integrity of New Hampshire elections. The truth is very simple. There are times that ballots are cast in New Hampshire that should not in fact be counted, either due to voter misunderstanding or criminal intent. If only one fraudulent ballot is cast and allowed to stand, then the entire system has failed. That one ballot can cancel out a legitimate vote, one cast by a dedicated New Hampshirite that believes their vote matters. Just one illegitimate vote is one ballot too many.
The magnitude of the issue is insignificant. All that matters is that voters have absolute faith that we are doing everything in our power to honor their vote. No amount of money, no amount of collusion, and no amount propaganda can stand in the way of most voters. In the end, our vote does not care if we are rich or poor. Our vote is the great equalizer, our most cherished possession in our Constitutional-Republic. Simple laws that ensure residency only serve to strengthen our vote, not weaken it.
There are those that make a mistake, due in large part to our state’s confusing definition of ‘domicile,’ while there are others that use this confusion (as it pertains to voting) against the citizens of NH. The 30-day residency law corrects a mistake that Gardner knows first-hand has allowed fraudulent ballots to be cast in our state, some in error and some with known malice. If we expect the NH Secretary of State to safeguard our elections, should we not give the SOS the simple, common-sense tools that aid in that endeavor?
As to other issues of voter fraud, such as voter id and same day registration, these are not the issues of this piece of legislation. The issues are valid as well, and need to be addressed. However, so long as the fear mongers confuse the issues, try to divert our attention away from common-sense solutions, our elections will always be suspect. NH residency must be more than a “state of mind (Gardner quote),” or merely where a person lays their head for a few nights. Residency is more than where you hang your hat; it is where you plan to build the foundation for your life. When we permit someone to look upon residency as a voting strategy, we impede the rights of those citizens that call New Hampshire their home.
As with any crime, the application of justice should not be affected by the magnitude of the offense. We should not ‘do nothing’ merely because we believe the issue to only be ‘a few votes here or there.’ Nor should we overreact by believing that every voter has a less than legitimate reason to cast a ballot in NH. We must find that common ground. However, the trip to the all too often elusive common ground requires us to take the high road, and that is where most people give up or become lost.