By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "To be singled out because I feel strongly that electronic poll books would be beneficial to the city of Laconia and other municipalities is a little disheartening," City Clerk Mary Reynolds said Friday.
Reynolds was referring to the decision of the New Hampshire Secretary of State to serve her with an extensive Right-to-Know request , which she believes represents a response to her support of legislation opposed by Secretary of State Bill Gardner to run a pilot program using electronic poll books in three precincts — Manchester, Hooksett and Durham — in the past year's primary and general elections.
Electronic poll books enable voters to swipe their driver's licenses at the polling station, and if their name, address and age matches the information on the checklist they are given a ballot. She said the system has nothing to do with the ballots themselves. After the bill carried the Senate, it failed in the House.
On Nov. 30, the Right-to-Know request was served on both Reynolds and Matt Normand, her counterpart in Manchester, who both openly supported the pilot program. It applies to any and all communications between the city clerks and their staffs relating to electronic poll books, including communications with vendors, particularly LHS Associates of Salem, New Hampshire and KNOWINK of St. Louis, Missouri, advocacy groups, like the New Hampshire Municipal Association, League of Women Voters and America Votes, and state legislators during the 18 months between June 2015 and November 2016.
Both Reynolds and Normand were prominent among those supporting the pilot program. Reynolds said that she fears the action by the Secretary of State may dissuade local officials from advocating or supporting initiatives to change the electoral system that he opposes.
In serving the request, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan explained that earlier this year his office received an "extensive" Right-to-Know request from America Votes, a progressive group championing the right to vote and improve the electoral system. Scanlan told New Hampshire Public Radio his office sought to learn about communications between local officials and advocacy groups like America Votes.
Speaking on the air Friday, Scanlan explained "It's only fair that if this organized group is out there trying to understand communications we had on our end, it's a reasonable request that we understand discussions that were taking place on their end. To the extent that they're arming themselves with information that consists of our communications with others on this process so it can be used against us, potentially, then we just want to make sure that we have a full understanding of the discussions that have taken place as well."
Reynolds, who served as first vice president of the New Hampshire City & Town Clerks Association in 2015, said that in supporting legislation to introduce the pilot program she represented only the city of Laconia and acted with the knowledge of City Manager Scott Myers. She said that although other organizations, including the New Hampshire Municipal Association and America Votes, also supported the bill, she did not act in concert with them. Nor, she said, did she represent the interests of vendors. "I only represented the city," she said, "and spoke with clerks from other municipalities along with senators and representatives expressing support for the bill."
Reynolds said that she will comply with the request "as quickly as we can," by drawing on the resources of information technology personnel as their time allows.
Meanwhile, Reynolds noted that Secretary of State Gardner has evened a committee to study introducing electronic poll books that includes a number of past presidents of the New Hampshire City & Town Clerks Association, but neither she, who is the current president of the association nor Normand, the city clerk in the state's largest city, are members.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 1632