ACLU-NH Challenges Disclosure of Statewide Voter Information

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NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner meets with concerned citizens about Trump's Voter Commission. Gardner serves on the commission.

CONCORD — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire today (Thursday) sued to bar the New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner from illegally disclosing statewide information concerning New Hampshire voters.  The complaint can be found here.

On Friday, June 30, 2017, Secretary Gardner agreed to produce to the recently-created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (the “Commission”) statewide 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 voter information.  (See RSA 654:31).

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of voter information for good reason: to protect voter privacy,” stated Representative Neal Kurk (R-NH), a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “These protections would be rendered meaningless by the transfer of this data to the Commission, which has established no security protocols and intends to post everything it receives online.”

Representative Kurk was involved in the crafting of the relevant statutes under RSA 654:31, which limit the prospect of mass dissemination of this statewide voter information in order to ensure that statewide voter information is only used for political purposes, not for commercial gain. (RSA 654:31(VI) explicitly prohibits voter information from being used for commercial purposes.)

“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,” stated Senator Bette Lasky (D-NH), another plaintiff in the case.

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.

“The Commission is not entitled to special, unwritten exemptions from the Secretary of State that circumvent New Hampshire law,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “He 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.”

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

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