Concord, NH - Today's editorial in the Portsmouth Herald editorial reviews the Republican agenda to stop people from exercising their right to vote in New Hampshire this year. Starting with with House Republican Speaker Bill O'Brien's admission that stopping young people from voting will be one of his legislative priorities in January, and ending with the request for an investigation filed by one of his constituents with the Attorney General's Office's last week.
The editorial also addresses SB129, the so called voter ID that was vetoed by Governor Lynch earlier this year, calling it a "cynical political calculation." "Republican leaders like O'Brien clearly don't trust that a voting system which swept them into office will keep them there," continued the Herald.
"O'Brien is right to worry, with polls showing this new Republican legislature is the most unpopular in Granite State history," said Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "But the solution isn't taking away New Hampshire citizens right to vote, it's abandoning his reckless and irresponsible agenda that has already killed hundreds of New Hampshire jobs."
The full text of today's editorial is below.
August 8, 2011
When politicians such as Republican House Speaker William O'Brien are reduced to empty and mean-spirited platitudes to justify dubious policy choices, it's a good sign that what they're selling should be inspected carefully.
When it comes to the restrictive Voter ID bill that the Legislature passed during the last session, the inspection doesn't take very long. Even the recent revelation that the college-aged son of O'Brien was registered to vote in Maine and New Hampshire obscures the real issue with Voter ID - an ultra-conservative drive to weaken voter participation among those less likely to support their agenda.
Gov. Lynch rightfully vetoed Senate Bill 129 in June by pointing out the obvious - the bill was an unnecessary solution to a non-existent problem. "Voter turnout in New Hampshire is among the highest in the nation, election after election," Lynch said in his June 27 veto message. "There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire. We already have strong elections laws that are effective in regulating our elections."
O'Brien lamented Lynch's veto by saying, "This is a good bill to ensure clean elections, and it's very disappointing that Governor Lynch has chosen against making sure that our elections are as pure as possible and free of corruption."
That's nonsense, and O'Brien knows it all too well. In a January speech before tea party activists in Rochester, O'Brien spoke the truth about Voter ID - it's about driving down participation of voters who don't vote for the William O'Briens of the world.
In particular, O'Brien said, college students vote "liberal" because "they don't have life experience" and "they just vote their feelings." These students also allegedly take over towns like zombies in town elections. Real voters, we can surmise, don't give in to their feelings or vote liberal. His son Brendan - who was head of Maine College Republicans, voted in Maine in 2009, and was a candidate for the Maine state Legislature in 2010 - must fit into a different college student category.
That Brendan then came back to New Hampshire to vote in November 2010 was opportunistic, but likely not a case of voter fraud. It was an example of the minor flaws in a decentralized system of voting that is overseen by dedicated volunteers - like Brendan's mother Roxanne, who serves as a Supervisor of the Checklist in his hometown of Mont Vernon. It's unclear whether the right paperwork in Mont Vernon was sent to Maine to de-register Brendan there, and the state Attorney General has been asked to look into the case.
Voter ID advocates in New Hampshire and other states talk all the time about fraud as alarmingly pervasive, but they offer so few examples that it would be comical if it weren't such a fundamentally serious issue as voting. As comedian Stephen Colbert noted during a recent segment on Voter ID on "The Colbert Report," a study of more than nine million votes cast in Ohio in 2002 and 2004 led to four cases of fraud - which Colbert called a "jaw dropping" total of a "44-millionth of a percent."
The real irony about Voter ID in New Hampshire and elsewhere is a cynical political calculation - Republican leaders like O'Brien clearly don't trust that a voting system which swept them into office will keep them there.