New Hampshire election officials may have to hunt down nearly 50,000 people in November and ask whether they really voted.
That’s one possible conclusion from Tuesday’s dry run of the state’s new voter ID law, which also produced some hard feelings, irritation and a bit of rudeness, judging from comments recorded by ballot clerks at Nashua’s Ward 2. Roughly 7 percent of the 7,570 people who voted in Nashua on Tuesday didn’t have a photo ID or didn’t want to show it. Figures for ID-less voters varied around the region, from 2 percent in Hudson to more than 10 percent in some Souhegan Valley towns. Statewide figures were not available Wednesday. But let’s assume the 7 percent figure holds true statewide in November – and City Clerk Paul Bergeron expects it to rise in Nashua, since the presidential race will draw lots of casual voters who won’t know about the new law. Then consider that 700,000 people voted in New Hampshire’s last presidential election, a number that also seems likely to rise. The conclusion? At least 49,000 people may have to fill out and sign an affidavit attesting to their identity before they can vote, which could lead to long lines at voting places, the need for more poll workers and, assuming a longer wait, some people turning away from voting entirely.
It also will lead to another job: Under state law, the attorney general’s office is supposed to contact all those people after the election to confirm their identity. That investigation won’t affect any results, since November ballot results will stand unless individually challenged, but it won’t be easy. Judging from the comments recorded at Charlotte Avenue School on Tuesday, plenty about the new law didn’t strike some people as being easy.
The ballot clerks started keeping an unofficial record of responses after a voter got angry when asked to see a photo ID. It was the only such record made in the city, and apparently in the region. “One voter gave them a hard time, and they decided they’d better keep track,” Bergeron said. The record of about two dozen reactions isn’t necessarily a reflection of the public’s feelings, since only strong opinions were noted. Even so, it shows that the new law wasn’t entirely popular. “Lots and lots of negative comments, even from people showing their license,” wrote one clerk. “They didn’t like the idea of having to show it,” wrote another.