LACONIA – Ten months after voters went to the polls in last November's election the state Attorney General's Office is continuing to investigate whether any of the 705,874 ballots cast were done so fraudulently.
Assistant Attorney General Steve LaBonte said last week that scrutinizing the status of almost 1,700 voters whose residency is in question is "an open investigation."
LaBonte declined to provide any details about the investigation other than to say that he and his staff have been working on the case since June. There said 12 to 15 people have been working on the case, either full- or part-time. He would not say how many of the questionable voters had been contacted or how much longer the investigation would take.
Under state law, the Secretary of State's Office is required to turn over to the AG's Office the names and addresses of voters who fail to respond to a mailing to confirm the address they gave when they registered at the polls. Any voter who registered to vote on Election Day but was unable to provide a photo ID and who was not recognized by certain poll workers was required to sign an affidavit swearing their identity. Sixty days after the election the Secretary of State's office is required to send a letter to those voters at the address they gave on the affidavit telling them to return the enclosed post card to the Secretary of State's office. The names of voters who do not return their cards within 90 days or whose letters are returned by the Post Office as undeliverable are turned over to the AG's Office for investigation.
Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said that his office sent out 5,609 letters to voters who signed the so-called Challenged Voter Affidavits last November. Of those, 3,911 voters returned their cards by the deadline, while 374 letters were returned as undeliverable and another 1,324 letters were presumably delivered, but the voters failed to mail the postcard back to the Secretary of State's Office, Scanlan said. The names and addresses of the 1,698 voters whose letters could not be delivered or who failed to send back the postcard were turned over to the AG's Office, he said.
Critics of New Hampshire's same-day registration law say it opens the door to vote fraud. The late Bob Kingsbury of Laconia was one of those who shared that view. In early March Kingsbury turned over to the Laconia City Clerk's Office the names of 60 voters whose Laconia residency he considered suspect. Kingsbury, who recently died, had sent letters to 1,365 people who had registered at Laconia polls on Election Day and 60 of those letters were returned by the Post Office as undeliverable.
City Clerk Mary Reynolds said that she turned the material she got from Kingsbury over to the Supervisors of the Checklist who "found no merit" to Kingsbury's contention that the returned letters showed probability of vote fraud.
"They may have moved (since Election Day), or their mailing address was different than their physical address — like a Post Office box," Reynolds said regarding the 60 voters. "There are many different variables."
New Hampshire law allows a pretty wide interpretation of who's eligible to vote.
According to Reynolds, the law says an inhabitant's domicile for voting purposes is "that one place where a person, more than any other place has established a physical presence."
"Because the law is vague in certain areas, it does create areas for problems," said Scanlan. "In large part, you have to rely on the trustworthiness of individuals to do the right thing when you're voting."
Scanlan said his office is eager to get the results of the AG's investigation, but understands why it is taking so much time.
"It's a big job, but it's a bigger job for the AG," he said.
If prosecutors determine that an affidavit was signed fraudulently, the signer could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor or a Class B felony, depending on the circumstances. The attorney general's office also has the option of pursuing a civil case.