On July 6, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and two legislators--Senator Bette Lasky and Representative Neal Kurk--sued to bar New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner from illegally disclosing information concerning New Hampshire voters from the statewide electronic voter database.  The amended petition can be found here.

Initially, the Secretary of State agreed to produce to the recently-created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity statewide electronic information concerning over 984,000 registered voters’ names, domicile and mailing addresses, and party affiliation, if any. This response ignored New Hampshire laws that place strict and binding requirements on how the State is to produce statewide voter information.  (See RSA 654:31 (II)-(III)).

The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of this electronic statewide voter information for good reason: to protect voter privacy by attemping to avoid mass dissemination of this information.  RSA 654:31(II)-(III) only allows requesters to: (i) view the statewide public checklist on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center during normal business hours where requesters are prohibited from printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data and (ii) obtain hard copies of the public checklist from local municipalities on a town-by-town/ward-by-ward basis at a fee of at least $25 per municipality or ward.  Yet these protections would be rendered meaningless by the transfer of this electronic statewide information to the Commission.

The Commission is not entitled to special, unwritten exemptions from the Secretary of State that circumvent these provisions.  The Secretary of State must apply the law to the Commission no differently than he would apply the law to a regular member of the public seeking this information.

In short, the Secretary of State has no statutory authority to release a copy of the statewide public checklist to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office.

The lawsuit, Lasky v. Gardner, seeks to bar the Secretary of State from disclosing this electronic information without full compliance with New Hampshire law. It was filed in Hillsborough Superior Court, Southern Division in Nashua.

On August 7, 2017, the Secretary of State agreed that he would obey the law by no producing this statewide electronic information.  He would only transmit images of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives.

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