News & Issues

Democracy and Voting Rights

Jun 10, 2020 | Voting, Voting Rights

Our democracy is in danger, but most of us don’t even know it.

Democracy is a three-legged stool. 

A government is not a democracy unless:

  1. All citizens have the right and opportunity to vote.
  2. Every voter has the chance to vote for a candidate who represents their interests.
  3. Every voter has public assurance that their vote has been accurately counted.

If one of the legs it broken, our democracy fails.  All three legs are under assault in New Hampshire today.

Leg # 1

To vote in a federal election, one need only be a citizen and at least 18 years of age.  To vote in state and local elections, one must have a geographic connection to the district in which you are voting.  All other restrictions on the right to vote are aimed at limiting certain segments of eligible voters from voting.

In NH, in 2017, an effort was launched to discourage voting by college students. A law was passed which tied voter registration to vehicle registration.  Voter registration is free, but vehicle registration can be quite expensive, especially for struggling college students.

Another 2017 law required extensive changes to the voter registration form including threats of fines and imprisonment if the voter was not later found at the address listed, a problem for homeless and transient voters. These changes are being challenged in court and will likely have to be decided by the NH Supreme Court.

Long lines are another way to discourage or limit voting. In Derry, as Town Moderator, I worked with other election officials to increase staffing, available parking, and to shorten lines, such that in the latest elections, no one had to spend more than 15 minutes casting their vote.

Leg #2

The right to vote for a candidate who represents one’s interests is compromised when lax campaign finance laws enable large donors to raise the costs of running for office to the point where the voices of less well-financed candidates are drowned out. After the election, the large donors have ready access to candidates to pursue their agenda.  Legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws in NH have failed for the last 8 years.

Drawing district voting lines to favor one party over another is called gerrymandering.  Gerrymandering works to restrict the options of the average voter to cast a meaningful vote since, in some districts, the outcome is determined before any vote is cast.  Legislation with overwhelming support from both parties to create a bi-partisan redistricting commission was vetoed by Governor Sununu in 2019.

Leg #3

The ability to vote for a candidate who represents one’s views is meaningless if the voting machine is not working properly. The overwhelming majority of electronic security experts and programmers agree that every computer program can be hacked by people half way across the globe from the moment it is created miles from where it may eventually be installed. There was undisputed agreement among the election security agencies of the U S Government that the Russians were successful at overcoming the election security protocols of all 50 states in 2016.  How many votes the Russian hackers were successful at changing is unknown, but they gathered enough information to devise ways to change votes in 2020.

Because the majority of states do not require a verification count of a meaningful sample of machine-counted ballots, we don’t know when malicious code has changed votes.  Until New Hampshire requires a comparison of a meaningful sample of paper ballots counted by hand and by machine, we can never be sure that the announced winner actually received the most votes.

You wouldn’t put your money in a bank that did not regularly audit its accounts.  So why should you trust your vote to an election system that does not check the accuracy of its results after every election.

In 2016, the NH Secretary of State prevented me, as Town Moderator, from conducting a post election audit of the 2016 general election results to verify the accuracy of the machine count.  In Derry, machines count over 98% of the votes cast.  Switching just 2½% of the votes in any race could change the outcome. As Town Moderator, I worked with legislators to fight efforts to keep certain groups from voting, to create an independent redistricting commission, and to promote legislation to verify that the voting machines were producing accurate results.   If elected, I will continue the fight to protect your vote.