New Hampshire, 2004

November 10, 2007

Various individuals questioned the integrity of New Hampshire’s 2004 elections. The allegations led to inflated claims of widespread fraud, of the sort commonly used to support restrictive identification requirements for voters at the polls. We examined each of the allegations of fraud by individual voters -- the only sort that ID could possibly address -- to uncover the truth behind the assertions.

The allegations yielded only two substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted, and two more under investigation – these voters cast ballots from improper addresses. Even if all four involved fraud, this amounts to a rate of 0.0006%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

The analysis below examines the allegations of fraud in more detail.

The rate of substantiated fraud:

  • 676,227 ballots were cast in the New Hampshire November 2004 general election.
There were two substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted, and two more remain under investigation. These voters cast ballots from improper addresses. Assuming that all four reveal an intent to vote from a false address, this amounts to a rate of 0.0006%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

The allegations:

  • Voters apparently listed multiple times on city rolls and listed on the rolls of two different cities were alleged to have voted twice.
  • Voters were alleged to have voted from improper addresses, based on undeliverable postcards mailed to the recorded street addresses, and based on registrations tied to a college property.

Questioning the allegations:

  • Multiple listing: The fact that voters are listed twice on the rolls is no indication of fraudulent activity: many individuals will register after moving, without canceling their former registration. This does not mean that they intend to vote twice. Furthermore, the fact that the same name appears multiple times on the voter rolls does not necessarily mean that one person is registered multiple times: often, what looks like the same person listed twice turns out to be two different individuals with the same name.
  • Improper addresses: Undeliverable mail sent to a registration address is often used to buttress claims that individuals are registered or voting at improper addresses, but it is at best an unreliable indicator. Typos or other errors in the registration process may cause mail to be misdirected. Or individuals may receive mail at an address different from the legal residence they list as their registration address. Moreover, there is nothing inherently suspect about multiple registrations tied to one address where multiple eligible voters live, whether the address is a college dormitory or some other group housing arrangement.

The facts:

  • Multiple listing: No voters were found to have voted twice. Many of the voters who were allegedly listed multiple times on the rolls actually represented different people with identical names. Others were in fact listed multiple times on the rolls because earlier registrations had not been cancelled, but voted only once and at the appropriate address.
  • Improper addresses: Four voters may have voted from improper addresses: as of April 6, 2006, one had been convicted and one had been assessed a civil penalty. One of these was an eligible voter who was a victim of domestic violence, and who voted from an old address in order to avoid disclosing her current domicile; one was an eligible voter who may have lived in the appropriate ward but not at the address provided. For the other voters, investigation revealed no misconduct. Many of the voters who allegedly voted from improper addresses actually lived at the addresses claimed, but received mail elsewhere. Other voters moved after the election but before the postcards arrived. One voter died between election day and the date that the postcard arrived. Another voted overseas pursuant to a legitimate special ballot that only requires that the voter’s last U.S. residence be in New Hampshire. The voters listed as residing on college property all in fact resided at the address indicated.

Coverage by existing law: The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires states to create statewide voter registration lists, with a unique identifier assigned to every voter. Like most states, New Hampshire did not have a HAVA-ready statewide database up and running in 2004. Now that the statewide system is operational, it should allow states to cut down on the number of voters who are listed multiple times on the rolls. Despite attempts to link the allegations to the need for a photo ID requirement, none of the above allegations of misconduct, even if true, would have been prevented by requiring voters to present photo identification.

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Sources:
electionline.org, Election Preview 2004: What's Changed, What Hasn't, and Why 23 (Oct. 2004).
Memorandum from Bud Fitch, Deputy Att’y Gen., N.H. Dep’t of Justice, to Robert Boyce, Chairman, N.H. Sen. Internal Affairs Comm., et al., April 6, 2006.
State of New Hampshire, Elections Division, State General Election Results.
Shawne K. Wickham, How Easy Would It Be to Vote Illegally?, Union-Leader (Manchester, NH), Dec. 12, 2004, at A1.
Marilyn L. Huston, Opinion, Time to Put Integrity Back Into Our Voting System, Union-Leader (Manchester, NH), Mar. 15, 2006, at A11.

Other resources:
Tom Fahey, Election Fraud Probe Finds Little, Union-Leader (Manchester, NH), Feb. 12, 2006, at A2.
Eric Moskowitz, House Acts to Tighten Voting Rules, Concord Monitor, Feb. 2, 2006.
Colin Manning, Voting Laws Get Close Look, Foster’s Online (Dover, NH), Mar. 13, 2005.
Shawne K. Wickham, How Easy Would It Be to Vote Illegally?, Union-Leader (Manchester, NH), Dec. 12, 2004, at A1.