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Legally mandated investigation of Nov. 2012 voters who showed no ID continues

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.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 03:16

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Modest population growth trend thought troubling sign for Lakes Region economy

LACONIA — The population growth that has driven growth and prosperity throughout much of the Lakes Region since 1970 slowed markedly during the last decade and shows scant sign of accelerating soon.

Demographic data compiled and presented by the Lakes Region Planning Commission in the course of updating its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the region offers a pattern of slackening in-migration and rapid aging that threaten to slow population growth in the years ahead. Unless mitigated, these trends will weigh on the development of the work force needed for a dynamic economy.

As defined by the commission, the Lakes Region includes the 11 municipalities of Belknap County, eight towns in Carroll County (Effingham, Freedom, Moultonborough, Ossipee, Sandwich, Tamworth, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro), six towns in Grafton County (Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol, Hebron and Holderness) and five municipalities in Merrimack County (Andover, Danbury, Franklin, Hill and Northfield).

In the 70 years between 1900 and 1970 the population of the 30 municipalities in the Lakes Region grew by just 16,092 — slightly more than the current population of Laconia — from 44,369 to 60,461. By contrast, in the 40 years since 1970 the population has risen by 52,272, an increase of 87-percent, from 60,461 to 112, 735. However, 88-percent of this population growth — 45,967 people — occurred between 1970 and 2000, when in successive decades the population increased by 29 percent, 18 percent and 16 percent.

From 2000 to 2010, the population added only 6,307 people to grow at a pace of 6 percent. Nearly half this increase occurred in just four towns — Alton, Barnstead, Belmont and Gilmanton — which together added 2,812 residents, 45 percent of the increase in the entire region. These towns are within reach of centers of employment: Alton and Barnstead fall within the orbit of Rochester. Dover and Somerswoth and Belmont and Gilmanton of Concord.

In a third of the 30 municipalities the pace of growth was less than 6 percent, lagging the average for the entire region. The two cities in the region — Laconia and Franklin — represented 26-percent of the regional population in 1990, but from 2000 to 2010 the first shrank and the second stagnated and their share of the regional population fell to 22-percent.

In an aging state, the Lakes Region is aging relatively rapidly. In New Hampshire the median age rose from 37.1 years in 2000 to 41.1 years in 2010, an increase of 11-percent. Only three of the 30 municipalities in the Lakes Region — Barnstead, Franklin and Northfield — posted median ages below the state average while the percentage increase in the median age reached double digits in 19 of the 30 municipalities in the region. The median age in all four counties in the Lakes Region topped the state median age, led by Carroll County at 48.3 years and followed by Belknap County at 44.7 years, Grafton County at 41.2 years and Merrimack County at 41.4 years.

The aging of the population is highlighted by the increase in those over 65. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of senior citizens rose by 20 percent, from 147,970 to 178,268, and from 12 percent to 13 percent of the total population. In the Lakes Region the numbers climbed 17 percent, from 16,838 to 19,740, to 17 percent of the regional population. With the exception of Laconia, Franklin, Moultonborough and Sandwich the percentage increase in the number of senior citizens reached double digits in all the municipalities in the Lakes Region.

With the last members of the "Baby Boom" generation, which consists of those born between 1946 and 1964, turning 65 in 2029, the aging process will be magnified and prolonged without an increase in either the rate of birth or pace of in-migration.

Meanwhile, after peaking at more than 61,000 in 2008 the labor force in the Lakes Region fell to about 59,000 in 2011, below where it stood in 2002. Likewise, the number of those employed peaked at 59,000 in 2008 before dropping to less than 56,000 in 2011, more than 1,000 fewer than were working in 2002.

The employment figures reflect the impact of the recession. Between 2005 and 2010, private employment fell by 3,196 jobs, 2,005 of them in the manufacturing sector where employment shrank by 32-percent., from 6,199 to 4,194 jobs. Altogether total employment in the region decreased by 7 percent between 2005 and 2010.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:58

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Cigarettes & a bicycle stolen after separate Laconia business break-ins

LACONIA — Police are investigating two burglaries from early yesterday morning that occurred in different parts of the city.

Police said a burglar alarm sounded at 1:28 a.m. at the Sunoco gas station at 1355 Union Avenue. When police arrived they found someone had thrown an unidentified object through the window of the entry door.

Police said cigarettes were among the items identified as stolen.

At 5:05 a.m., police responded to MC Cycle on Canal Street where they found that someone had used an unidentified object to force entry into the building. Witnesses told police that they saw an unidentified man pedal away on a stolen bicycle and that he headed toward City Hall on Beacon Street.

The bicycle was recovered a short time later in that general area.

Police said yesterday they have identified at least "one person of interest" and asked if anyone has any information about either burglary to call the Laconia Police Department at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:53

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LPD says heroin is now drug of choice because it is what's available

LACONIA — Detective Chris Noyes, who leads the Police Department's effort against drug trafficking, told the City Council last night that as the volume of prescription drugs on the street has dwindled, heroin has taken their place as the drug of choice among those addicted to opiates, who he estimated number between 300 and 500, or as many as three-percent of the population.

Police Chief Chris Adams reminded that councilors that two years ago, following after a rash of fatal overdoses, as many as a dozen uniformed officers and support staff were assigned to a project to address the dealing and abuse of drugs in the city. He said that although there were no fatal overdoses in 2012, three have died this year and drug cases have risen 16-percent, an increase that reflected stiffer enforcement. At the same time, crimes against persons and property, most of which are associated with drugs, dropped 22-percent and 6-percent respectively.

Noyes said that "there has been quite a dip" in trafficking in prescriptions opiates, particularly oxycodone, with tighter controls on their distribution. Likewise, the supply of methamphetamines has dwindled after several small labs were discovered and the cooks jailed. But, he stressed that users have substituted heroin as supplies rose and prices fell, adding that police have recovered pressed heroin pills, which are very rare in New Hampshire.

"These are poly drug users," Noyes said. "They don't care. It's anything they can get."

He explained that if they can't get one drug they will substitute another. Once they are addicted, if they can't get their drug of choice they may take what he called "a gap drug," like buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic opiate, just to avoid to being sick. "They're just buying time," he said. "They're not getting high. They're just noting getting sick." Noyes said that most addicts ranged in age from "19 to 20 to middle to late 30s," with the youngest, those just leaving high school, representing "the biggest spike in using and dealing."

In response to a question from City Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), Noyes said that although most addicts "don't like where they're at," they find it difficult to enter a rehab facility and even more difficult to kick their habit. He agreed that more therapeutic programs in correctional institutions, like those contemplated as part of a new Belknap County Jail, would be beneficial. "Jail is where most get rehab services," Noyes said, while Adams interrupted to recall a current student at Lakes Region Community College told him "being arrested was the best thing that ever happened to him."

Traci Fowler of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Inc, who coordinates regional efforts to prevent drug and alcohol abuse, told the councilors that Laconia is among a handful of municipalities where a coalition of of residents — "Stand Up Laconia" — to address alcohol and drug use among young people. She emphasized that the longer adolescents go without drinking or using, the greater the likelihood they will escape addiction.

Fowler said that a successful prevention program requires a broad-based community effort, engaging law enforcement, educators, health care providers and parents, pursuing "best practices," which have been proven effective.

NOTE: The City Council was without a quorum last night and could not transact business. Mayor Mike Seymour, along with Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Brenda Baer (Ward 4) were absent last night. Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), the mayor pro-tem, presided. The only item on the agenda requiring action was the acceptance of a grant on behalf of the Laconia Airport Authority to fund erection of wildlife perimeter fence, which will be taken up at the first meeting next month.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 02:50

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