An inhabitant of New Hampshire has the right to vote in the place where the voter is domiciled, which is where a person has established a physical presence with the intent to maintain that presence. It is impossible to prove or disprove a voter’s intent regarding maintaining their physical presence on Election Day, so it is up to the honesty of each voter to maintain the integrity of the election.
New Hampshire allows voters to register on the day of the election, at the polls. A person registering at the polls is required to present proof of identity, domicile, and eligibility. A voter who does not present the required documents can sign an affidavit attesting to the voter’s identity and domicile. In the past four general elections, voters who registered at the polls cast 5-14% of the total votes cast.
While New Hampshire requires a voter to present proof of identity prior to voting, it allows voters who do not have identification or refuse to provide it to sign an affidavit attesting to the voter’s identity.
The Secretary of State follows up with all voters who sign affidavits and the Attorney General investigates any questionable affidavits, but any investigation is done long after the questionable vote has been cast and counted. As of May 2015, an investigation into 1,777 follow-up letters that were returned as undeliverable as addressed following the 2012 election was ongoing. Over two-thirds were still unverified.
Individual votes in New Hampshire hold special importance. Its early primary often determines which candidates drop out of and remain in the race, setting the tone for and affecting the outcome of the presidential election for the entire nation.
On the state level, the New Hampshire House of Representatives has 400 members, representing 204 legislative districts (some districts have multiple representatives). On average, a house member represents 3,291 residents, of which 2,630 are voting age. Close state house races are often decided by a very small margin, and some races result in ties.
Well-respected Democrat Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the state official who oversees elections, supports reforming New Hampshire’s election laws, fearing that the current law makes New Hampshire’s elections open to fraud. Describing the state’s voting system, Gardner said, “We have drive-by voting.”
There are numerous reports of people voting who were in New Hampshire on Election Day but did not live in New Hampshire. Most are not investigated, let alone prosecuted.
- In 2008, Secretary Gardner witnessed AmeriCorps volunteers who planned to leave on December 1 register at the polls and vote.
- In 2012, Alana Biden, Joe Biden’s niece, signed an affidavit to vote, claiming the address of Democratic State Senator Martha Fuller Clark as her home. Several other Obama-Biden campaign workers did the same, despite only being in New Hampshire to work for the election.
- In 2008 and 2012, Lorin C. Schneider, Jr., of Carver, Massachusetts, voted in Manchester’s Ward 9 despite being a long-time resident of Massachusetts. The New Hampshire Attorney General charged Schneider and he pled guilty to wrongful voting.
In 2015, the New Hampshire legislature passed SB 179 to reform the domicile law to require a person to have established domicile in a location for 30 days prior to voting in an election there. Governor Hassan vetoed the bill, and the legislature failed to overturn the veto.
In July 2015, 57% percent of New Hampshire residents supported the 30-day domicile requirement. 74% of Republicans, 58% of independents, and 41% of Democrats supported the reform. There is bipartisan support for reforming New Hampshire’s election laws.
Adding a 30-day requirement for establishing domicile in New Hampshire would protect New Hampshire from people voting who are in New Hampshire for a short period around the election with no intent to remain. It would add an objective criterion by which state officials could evaluate domicile when investigating and prosecuting drive-by voters, replacing the current, un-provable, entirely subjective definition. It would be one step towards reforming a system that risks diluting the votes of all actual New Hampshire citizens, especially in presidential election years when all eyes turn to New Hampshire.
2017 Update: The Senate passed SB3, a bill requiring a person to provide proof of domicile and creating a presumption that a person present in a locality 30 or fewer days before an election is in New Hampshire temporarily, unless the person’s actions show intent to remain indefinitely. The bill is currently under consideration in the House.