By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
Nelle Douville took to Facebook today when she was almost turned away from voting in Tilton because she didn’t have any documentation showing her new address.
“Not letting me vote,” Douville posted in a big black box on Facebook, drawing encouragement from upset friends urging her to stand her ground.
The poll worker told her she couldn’t register to vote without the documents showing domicile, said Douville, who works for a nonprofit. But when she persisted, the volunteer asked town officials who made some calls to state officials and finally allowed her to vote after she signed an affidavit.
It seemed like it took an hour, but probably was only about 25 minutes, she said.
“I got it done,” Douville said sounding relieved in a telephone interview. “I am glad I voted.”
It was a close call, she said, but she was also worried about eligible students and homeless people who might not insist on their right to vote when first turned away.
Douville sold her home in Bedford on Sept. 28 and has been staying in a weekly rental in Tilton until she finds a permanent home. But she pays rent through her bank and had no rent receipts when she went to register to vote at about 5 p.m. Tuesday at Winnisquam High School.
“If you are homeless in this state, you will have a hellacious time of it trying to vote,” Douville posted.
She couldn’t leave without voting, Douville said.
“I voted in every election except 2010 since 1974, and that was by absentee ballot when I was a student at Keene State,” Douville said.
She was so glad when she received her ballot that she took a selfie and posted that, too, on Facebook.
“I want to emphasize the people were really, really nice,” Douville said.
Kate Spinner, spokesman for Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, said she was compiling the number of calls to the state’s voting hotline, but wasn’t aware of the nature of the calls.
Secretary of State William Gardner spoke with InDepthNH.org on Friday making it clear that it would be illegal to turn away any eligible voter from the polls because they didn’t have the right documents.
To be eligible to vote in New Hampshire, a person must be 18 or older, a U.S. citizen and live in the municipality where they are trying to vote.
Recent court orders in an ongoing lawsuit that is trying to overturn the new law requiring increased documentation of domicile have likely confused the public. And Gardner was afraid that could cut down on voter turnout.
Known as SB3, the law requires new voters to provide more documentation of where they live if registering 30 days before an election or on election day.
Critics said the change would be an undue burden on students and homeless people. But Gardner said the new proof of domicile forms have already been used in all of the towns and cities in recent elections and the state primary without complaint.
“Don’t be scared into not voting,” Gardner said. “If you are 18 and qualified to vote, you cannot be turned away even if don’t have anything on you to prove domicile. You sign an affidavit and you can vote.”
The new law says without proof of domicile people can register to vote within 30 days of an election or on election day, as long as they sign an affidavit and check off a box that says they have the document and agree to get it to the clerk within a certain amount of time or check the box that says they aren’t aware of any such documents and understand officials will take steps to confirm domicile.
It also says that by law they could be subject to criminal or civil penalties for failing to deliver the documents proving domicile, but the Superior Court has temporarily ordered that the state can’t enforce the penalties.