Concord, NH - New Hampshire House Republican Speaker Bill O'Brien's attacks against young voters are now the subject of a complaint filed with the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office yesterday. Reports of the Speaker's son Brendan O'Brien's dual voter registration in Maine and New Hampshire surfaced over the weekend. In New Hampshire, the obligation to prevent simultaneous voter registration in multiple states lies with the local Supervisor of the Checklist. In the town of Mont Vernon where the O'Brien family lives, the Supervisor is Roxanne O'Brien, Speaker O'Brien's wife.
The complaint alleges that "When Brendan O'Brien registered to vote in Mont Vernon in the 2010 election, he should have received the voter registration form provided for in RSA 654:7 from town officials, and then it should have been forwarded to Lewiston, Maine, so his name would be removed from the voter rolls there." It continues, "If that did not occur, then the supervisors of the checklist, including Mrs. Roxanne O'Brien, did not follow the law. It seems that Mrs. O'Brien would have known that her son had run for office in Maine, and was registered there previously."
A story from today's Portsmouth Herald can be found below, as well as a copy of the complaint submitted to the Attorney General's Office yesterday. Additional stories ran in today's Union Leader and Concord Monitor.
August 3, 2011
A constituent of New Hampshire House Speaker William O'Brien filed a letter of complaint Tuesday regarding the voter registration status of O'Brien's son Brendan.
Joyce Cardoza of Mont Vernon said she sent the letter to the state attorney general following recent multiple news reports in Maine and New Hampshire that Brendan O'Brien had voted in Mont Vernon last November despite briefly running for the state Legislature in Maine in 2010 while attending Bates College. Additionally, O'Brien had been registered to vote in Maine in 2009 and remains registered in Maine. Cardoza would like an investigation to find out how this was possible and if the town had followed proper procedures. Roxanne O'Brien, the speaker's wife and Brendan's mother, is on the three-person supervisor of the checklist board in Mont Vernon.
"When the news stories about Speaker O'Brien's son registering (to vote) in both Maine and New Hampshire appeared, I called some of my friends to ask if they had seen the articles as well," Cardoza told the Portsmouth Herald. "That was when someone mentioned that Roxanne O'Brien was the supervisor of the checklist for our town."
According to a story in the Lewiston Sun, Brendan O'Brien acknowledged he was simultaneously registered in both states, but that he had not done it on purpose. He added that he had only voted in New Hampshire in 2010 and Maine in 2009 when his vote could have "the most impact." Cardoza contends in her letter to Attorney General Michael Delaney, that state law requires that an individual registering to vote must state the place they were last registered to vote - and because O'Brien is still registered to vote in Maine, proper procedure may not have been followed.
"When Brendan O'Brien registered to vote in Mont Vernon in the 2010 election, he should have received the voter registration form provided for in RSA 654:7 from town officials, and then it should have been forwarded to Lewiston, Maine, so his name would be removed from the voter rolls there," Cardoza wrote. "If that did not occur, then the supervisors of the checklist, including Mrs. Roxanne O'Brien, did not follow the law. It seems that Mrs. O'Brien would have known that her son had run for office in Maine, and was registered there previously."
The issue threatens to be a political embarrassment for Speaker O'Brien. Citing alleged voter fraud, O'Brien had strongly supported a far-reaching and restrictive voter ID bill that passed the Legislature the past session. In a speech that was posted on YouTube earlier this year, O'Brien justifed his support for the bill, which would restrict registration for college students living in the state, by criticizing most college students for being liberal and "voting with their feelings" because they lacked maturity and life experience. The speech caught the attention of comedian Stephen Colbert, who mocked it during a story on the proliferation of voter ID legislation across the country on a July episode of "The Colbert Report."
Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill in May. In his veto message, Lynch rejected the need for the bill, saying: "Voter turnout in New Hampshire is among the highest in the nation, election after election. There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire. We already have strong election laws that are effective in regulating our elections."
Speaker O'Brien's office was contacted for comment for this story but did not reply.
The political irony is that Brendan O'Brien's name came up as part of a legislative push by state Republicans in Maine to eliminate voter day registration. Brendan O'Brien was the chairman of Maine College Republicans and according to the Lewiston Sun, a list of 206 college students was turned over by the state Republican Party to the attorney general's office for possible voter fraud.
"How does Speaker O'Brien feel about his son exercising the very same right to vote he had tried to take away from countless young people in New Hampshire?" said Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "The problem here isn't college students exercising their constitutional right to vote; it's people like Speaker O'Brien pushing anti-American bills infringing on the right to vote."
Cardoza said she has been registered to vote in Mont Vernon since 2000 and a resident of New Hampshire since 1985. She is concerned about a potential personal backlash in her town for filing the letter of complaint but believes it is the right thing to do. "I don't think Brendan O'Brien broke any laws, but it does not seem right that the rules may not have been followed for the relative of a speaker of the state House of Representatives," she said.
Complaint Filed with the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office
20 Salisbury Road
Mont Vernon, NH
August 2, 2011
Mr. Michael Delaney
New Hampshire Attorney General
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301
Dear Attorney General Michael Delaney,
I am writing regarding some concerns about the maintenance and upkeep of the voter checklist in my town of Mont Vernon.
Over the past few days, several news outlets wrote that Brendan O'Brien, the son of House Speaker Bill O'Brien and son of one of the Supervisors of the Checklist in Mont Vernon, was registered to vote in Mont Vernon New Hampshire, while also registered to vote in the state of Maine. [Sun Journal, 7/29/2011; Concord Monitor, 7/31/2011; Union Leader, 8/2/2011]
According to the Maine Sun Journal, he voted in New Hampshire in 2008, voted in Maine in 2009, in 2010 ran for the District 73 seat representing Lewiston in the Maine House of Representatives, receiving the Republican nomination before dropping out a month later, and voted in the New Hampshire 2010 general election. The Sun Journal also reported that Brendan O'Brien is still registered in Lewiston.
New Hampshire's voter registration form specified in RSA 654:7 requires that an individual registering to vote must state the place they were last registered to vote. It also says that "If the supervisors decide to add the name of the applicant to the checklist, then they shall retain the original of the registration form for their own file, which shall be retained in accordance with RSA 33-A:3-a, forward one copy to the supervisors of the checklist of the city or town of the applicant's last voting address if said address is in the state of Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island, and send another copy to the clerk of their town or city."
When Brendan O'Brien registered to vote in Mont Vernon in the 2010 election he should have received the voter registration form provided for in RSA 654:7 from town officials, and then it should have been forwarded to Lewiston, Maine, so his name would be removed from the voter rolls there. If that did not occur then the Supervisors of the Checklist, including Mrs. Roxanne O'Brien, did not follow the law. It seems that Mrs. O'Brien would have known that her son had run for office in Maine, and was registered there previously.
Earlier this year, House Speaker Bill O'Brien made several comments about the existence of widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire and promised to make altering New Hampshire's eligibility requirements to register to vote a legislative priority. But in his own town of Mont Vernon, it looks like the proper procedures to prevent fraud aren't being followed, or at least were not followed in this case. I don't think Brendan O'Brien broke any laws, but it just does not seem right that the rules may not have been followed by the Supervisors of the Checklist for the son of a state representative (especially one who was running for Speaker) and of one of the Supervisors of the Checklist.