AG's office tells checklist supervisors to be detectives for Aichinger challenge

  • Published in Local News

CONCORD — "You have to become detectives," New Hampshire Assistant Secretary David Scanlan told the Gilford Supervisors of the Checklist, who met with him yesterday seeking guidance in handling a challenge to the residency of conservative activist Barbara Aichinger.

Aichinger, who authored four failed warrant articles and lost her bid for a seat on the Budget Committee in March, joined Connie Moses, Irene LaChance and Mary Villaume at the Secretary of State's office. Kate ...

CONCORD — "You have to become detectives," New Hampshire Assistant Secretary David Scanlan told the Gilford Supervisors of the Checklist, who met with him yesterday seeking guidance in handling a challenge to the residency of conservative activist Barbara Aichinger.

Aichinger, who authored four failed warrant articles and lost her bid for a seat on the Budget Committee in March, joined Connie Moses, Irene LaChance and Mary Villaume at the Secretary of State's office. Kate Miller of Exeter, an attorney with Donahue, Tucker and Ciandella, PLLC representing the supervisors, participated in the meeting by telephone.

In February, Joe Wernig questioned whether Aichinger, who with her husband Edward owns homes at  554 and 558 Edgewater Drive on Governor's Island, is a legal resident of Gilford. He claimed that her daughter is enrolled in the Bedford school system, the tax cards for the properties in Gilford list the Aichingers' address as 36 Olde English Road, Bedford, and  she has attached the Bedford address to political contributions.

At a special meeting on March 3, just days before voters went to the polls, the supervisors found sufficient merit in Wernig's challenge to forward a copy to Aichinger, together with notice that they intended to consider and rule on the matter on April 10. "We have determined there is doubt," Moses told Scanlan.

Moses and Villaume began by asking how the supervisors should interpret the relevant statute (RSA 654:1), which reads: "An inhabitant's domicile for voting purposes is that one place where a person, more than any other place, has established a physical presence and manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence for domestic, social, and civil purposes relevant to participating in democratic self-government."

"Each domicile is unique," Scanlan said, noting that individuals may own property in different municipalities and states as well as register vehicles, accept mail and attend school in different places. He said that several years ago the Legislature distinguished domicile for voting purposes from domicile from other purposes. Thus, he noted that the domicile of a transient living in a campground or a homeless person living under a bridge could qualify for voting purposes, but not for other purposes, like registering a vehicle.

"It's like putting a puzzle together," Scanlan told the supervisors. "Gather all the facts you have available — car registration, driver's license, mailing address, school enrollment and so on — and come to a judgment." He cautioned that some information may not be readily accessible. "You're not law enforcement officers," he remarked. 

Aichinger peppered Scanlan with questions, beginning by asking why the supervisors informed of her of the challenge without first seeking information from her. "That is the process," Scanlan replied.

Next she asked why the challenge was made at a meeting of which she had not been told. "Challenges can be made at any time without notice, even at the polls," he explained.

"How about the motivation for the challenge?" said Aichinger. Scanlan said that challenges were often politically motivated, advising the supervisors to ignore the politics and "decide the issue on its merits."

"Do professional couples frequently have different residences?" asked Aichinger. "Yes," Scanlan agreed.

Aichinger said that if a couple had more than one residence, their child could only be enrolled in one school district. Scanlan agreed, noting that multiple residences frequently gave rise to "complicated situations."

Aichinger said that she attended public meetings in Gilford, wrote letters to the editor of local papers, engaged in local political activity and volunteered for various local organizations . Stressing that she did all these things "in Gilford and at no other place," she asked "is this indicative of a person engaging in civic activities." Scanlan agreed "it is certainly evidence."

Aichinger offered her credit card records to show that she shopped in the Gilford area, together with driver's license, vehicle registration and mailing address, all of which would confirm Gilfoird as her domicile.

After the meeting Moses said that she was pleased that Aichinger effectively volunteered information to the which the supervisors would not have access otherwise. "We've got our work cut out for us," she said.