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LOCAL COMMENTARY Nashua Telegraph, OCT 13, 2019 THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS Guest Columnists
Everyone's talking about the 2020 elections, and rightly so. But 2019 is an election year, too. All municipal offices in Nashua are elected on odd-numbered years, and this year's general election is on Nov. 5. The mayor is running for re-election unopposed, but there is an abundance of contested races + Board of Education and Board of Aldermen all the way down to ward offices. The outcomes of those races will play a large part in shaping our city for years to come.
We all have a stake in local elections. In many ways, they can affect our lives even more than state or federal elections. The winners make decisions about your children's schools and how your property taxes are used. You also will be choosing the people who run all our elections in Nashua and are responsible for making sure that election laws are followed and that every eligible voter is able to vote. But it can often be hard to find much information about candidates running for municipal offices. Luckily, this year there are two easy ways to learn about who will be on your ballot and what they stand for.
First, a Board of Education Candidate Forum will be hosted by the League of Women Voters at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30 at the Nashua Public Library, co-sponsored by the library and The Telegraph. This is a hotly contested race, and the Board of Education has a huge effect on the lives of all of our Nashua children. We're thrilled to provide you with the opportunity to hear the candidates speak about their beliefs and goals regarding public education and the issues facing the Nashua schools. You'll also have a chance to submit your own question for the candidates.
We also are excited to announce that Nashua is participating in the League of Women Voters' non-partisan VOTE411.org Online Voter Guide. Just go to http://www.VOTE411.org, click "Find What's on Your Ballot," and enter your address to see a list of all the races and candidates on your ballot as well as candidates' descriptions of their priorities, experience and more in their own words. Not sure which ward you live in? VOTE411.org makes it easy: enter your address, you'll see the candidate line-up that will be on your ballot on Election Day. All the candidates at all levels have been invited to participate, and even some of the candidates in uncontested races have graciously submitted answers, so make sure you check out the site to learn more about the people who will be representing you.
If you'd like to help protect your voting rights and educate your fellow citizens, we invite you to join the League of Women Voters + a non-partisan group heading into our 100th year. We meet on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Nashua Public Library. All are welcome. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The League of Women Voters New Hampshire is angered by our governor's veto of a truly bi-partisan bill to create an independent redistricting commission. Governor Sununu ignored the work put into this bill by House and Senate members from both parties. The Election Law committees of both bodies supported this bill, and the Governor chose to ignore their informed decisions.
The Governor's veto statement that legislators would "abbrogate their responsibility to the voters" by relying on the skills and concensus of a commission chosen from a pool of non-legislators misses the point of a commission: to be non-partisan, to follow the constitutional guidelines, and to create fair maps. HB706 still puts the final vote in the hands of the legislature, Governor Sununu, as stated in the NH Constitution.
HB706 would have reversed at least two decades of partisan stances in creating our state's voting districts, behind closed doors in 2011 and in violation of the constitution's requirement that any town that was large enough deserved its own state representative. In 2001 the redistricting decisions were so bad that the courts stepped in!
The Governor had a chance to support efforts by both parties to create fair election districts in 2021. Shame on you, Governor, for failing to recognize the will of the people to end gerrymandering. And shame on you for ignoring the good work of our senators and representatives at the state house.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 29, 2019
Governor Sununu Vetoes Legislation that Corrects Unconstitutional Voting Rights Policy
HB 105, 106 Sought to Protect Access to the Polls for Granite Staters
CONCORD-- Today, Governor Sununu vetoed HB 105 and 106, bills that would have repealed the widely-opposed SB 3 and HB 1264, two student vote suppression bills that came from the Republican led legislature in 2017 and 2018 respectively. SB 3, a bill that requires voters who register at the polls on Election Day to provide proof of residency within 30 days of voting, is currently suspended while it is being challenged in the courts. Meanwhile HB 1264, which went into effect this month, is viewed by many as a confusing post-election poll tax that changed the definition of "resident" to disenfranchise student and transient Granite State voters. Following the vetoes, the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights released the following statement:
"The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights is deeply disappointed in Governor Sununu's decision to veto HB 105 and HB 106, bills that would have corrected unconstitutional policy that adds confusion to voting. Voters across the state have spoken out against unnecessary and cumbersome bills like SB 3 and HB 1264, and Governor Sununu's decision to uphold them infringes on our democracy by disenfranchising some Granite Staters, including students, medical residents, and seasonal workers.
We urge Governor Sununu to look past party lines and ensure that all Granite Staters have the right to vote in the place they call home.
He will have a chance to do so with another bill coming to his desk this session, SB 67, a bill that would lift the undue burdens on some Granite Staters while keeping HB 1264 on the books. We hope that Governor Sununu takes the second chance to do right by his constituents and signs SB 67 when it reaches his desk."
The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights is a project of America Votes and a coalition of state and national advocacy organizations, voters, attorneys and watchdog organizations working to ensure and preserve the right to vote for every Granite Stater.
Kate Corriveau, New Hampshire State Director
Note: Board member Nancy M. drafted this letter, with input from the board, but it was sent from the LWVNH president on behalf of the entire board. Appeared in the Concord Monitor on 6-10-19.
Here is WMUR's explanation of the ruling: https://www.wmur.com/article/nh-supreme-court-restores-registration-forms-process-of-2017-proof-of-domicle-law-sb-3/24286469
Here is NHPR's explanation of the ruling. NHPR had daily coverage of the hearing in later August, for which League thanks them sincerely, particularly reporter Casey McDermott. http://www.nhpr.org/post/nh-supreme-court-says-sb3-can-stay-place-reversing-lower-courts-order
"Read the ruling here."https://htv-prod-media.s3.amazonaws.com/files/sb3preliminaryinjunction-1540234091.pdf
July 10, 2018 Union Leader article explaining the upcoming legal events for the voter registration bill passed last year, SB3. See more.
June 26, 2018 Nashua Telegraph article by Damien Fisher, staff writer: http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/local-news/2018/06/26/august-sb-3-trial-delayed/
"MANCHESTER + The saga of New Hampshire's voter residency requirement law, commonly known as SB 3, began amid allegations by Republicans that people from Massachusetts crossed the border to cast Democratic ballots during the 2016 presidential election.
On Monday, the latest development in the matter saw Hillsborough Superior Court-North Judge Kenneth Brown call the trial schedule for SB 3 unrealistic, as he pushed back the planned Aug. 20 trial.
"It's not going to happen this August. I think we should look at it more realistically," Brown told attorney Bruce Spiva, who is representing the League of Women Voters in the case.
Spiva was pushing to keep to the Aug. 20 trial date. Instead, Brown will oversee hearings during the week of Aug. 27 on whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the state to keep it from enforcing the law ahead of the November midterm elections.
Brown took on the case this week after Hillsborough Superior Court-South Judge Charles Temple stepped aside, citing a conflict of interest because of a personal relationship with one of the lawyers working on the case. In his ruling taking him off the case, Temple wrote that the change of judges should not delay the case schedule.
One of the major issues at play in the case is a New Hampshire Supreme Court review of Temple's order from earlier this year, which requires state officials to hand over copies of the statewide voter database to the plaintiffs: the League of Women Voters and the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The high court could reverse Temple's ruling, throwing much of the evidence prepared by the plaintiffs into question.
"You can't try the case without that information," Brown told Spiva.
Spiva argued for pushing forward with the planned trial, saying he expected an expedited ruling from the Supreme Court before the end of July. That would give both sides just enough time to prepare for the Aug. 20 trial, according to Spiva.
Assistant Attorney General Anthony Galdieri balked at the idea of going forward with the trial, saying there are still too many outstanding issues concerning motions to quash subpoenas, motions to exclude some witnesses, and depositions to still take before the trail can start.
"It's virtually impossible to have a trial in August," Galdieri said.
The state is pushing for a trial sometime in April, well after the November elections and after New Hampshire's traditional Town Meeting election season. Short of a trial, Spiva said he has enough evidence to seek the preliminary injunction against the state. The could keep the state from enforcing SB 3 during the midterms while the trial is pending. Temple ruled last year to block the state from enforcing any criminal penalties written into the law.
The SB 3 lawsuit started last year, after Gov. Chris Sununu signed the law, which creates possible criminal penalties for people who register to vote on election day, but fail to provide evidence they are legally entitled to vote within a certain timeframe. The lawsuit, brought by the state's Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, and some individual voters, claims the law will discourage poor, minorities, and college students from voting.
Though no schedule for the trial has been set yet, Brown ordered all the attorney's to be present for the preliminary injunction hearings in August.
Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or email@example.com or @Telegraph_DF."
June 19, 2018 Nashua Telegraph article: By Damien Fisher, Staff Writer <http://nashuatelegraph.nh.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=25ff909d3>
"MANCHESTER + The SB 3 voter registration lawsuit is going to have to wait, as the scheduled Aug. 20 trial is being put off after the case was moved to Manchester.
According to court filings this week, the lawsuit's trial date for later this summer is not going to happen, and has yet to be rescheduled. The case was moved to the Hillsborough Superior Court-North in Manchester after Judge Charles Temple, who presides in the Hillsborough Superior Court-South in Nashua, recused himself.
The case is now on for a status conference next week in the Manchester courthouse where it has been assigned to Judge Kenneth Brown. Temple took himself off the case to avoid a conflict after the state hired one of Temple's close friends.
The SB 3 lawsuit started last year, after Gov. Chris Sununu signed the law that creates possible criminal penalties for people who register to vote on Election Day, but fail to provide evidence they are legally allowed to vote within a certain timeframe. The lawsuit, brought by the state's Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, and some individual voters, claims the law will discourage poor, minorities, and college students from voting.
The law was written and passed amid reports of people from Massachusetts taking buses to vote in New Hampshire during the 2016 presidential election. Those stories turned out to be false. Assistant Attorney General Ann Edwards recently testified before the Ballot Law Commission that while some hired buses were used to bring voters to the polls on 2016's Election Day, the voters in the buses were legally permitted to vote in New Hampshire."
June 8, 2018 Judge Temple has recused himself from the trial, previously scheduled for Aug. 20-31, 2018. League does not know yet know what the trial date will be as the case is moved to another judge's courtroom. Read the Union Leader article here.
The League urges the Governor to veto HB 1264. UPDATE: Governor Sununu signed this bill, which will take effect July 1, 2019.
July 21, 2018: News posting about voter suppression in NH from NBC news. Click here to read the article. Article also mentions the League's lawsuit against the state re last year's onerous SB3 voter registration bill.
See the Mayor's posting about this on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MayorJimDonchess/?hc_ref=ARRZV7E5RmLNxA0d1I8HflhFoFhlsFdOB8biBWMotVZcUbU_5FxCK-3hsQG9tDAgVmk&fref=nf&hc_location=group
The League of Women Voters NH began our study of the issues facing women incarcerated in NH in 2009. We visited the county houses of correction, the women's prison in Goffstown, the women's "halfway house" at Shea Farm, drug courts. We interviewed many people and did research (some of which is available on our website.) Along with several other organizations we fought the proposal for a privatized women's prison and won, then advocated for a new prison with improved education and rehabilitative services. Finally the new New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women is open in Concord. The women moved in on April 17, 2018. The old Goffstown facility will be turned back to Hillsborough county for conversion or dismantling as they see fit.
A LWVNH member also marched in DC, and a number of members from around NH joined marches in Concord, Jackson, Peterborough, and elsewhere.
Proud of our members making their voices heard to keep our schools safe!
Here is a link to the Feb. 18, 2018, piece about election law bills working their way thru the NH Legislature.
The hearing on the preliminary injunction is now scheduled for Monday, Sept. 11, 1:30 pm, at Hillsborough Superior Court, 30 Spring St., Nashua.
On Aug. 25, 2017, a preliminary injunction was filed on behalf of the LWVNH and others to halt implementation of SB3 voter registration provisions while the lawsuit (see below) moves forward. The scheduled Sept. 8 enactment means that people registering for city primaries and city elections in Sept-Nov will be subject to a law that is unnecessarily complicated, has not yet been explained to the public in simple language, and thus may intimidate otherwise qualified potential voters from even attempting to register. Click Here for link to Public News Service article on the injunction filing, 8/28/17
Look in Thursday's (8/24)newspapers for a press release, but this is a heads-up for League of Women Voters NH members about some exciting news:
LWVNH and three college students are the plaintiffs in the suit filed Wednesday morning in Hillsborough South court against NH Sec. of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, to stop implementation of the unreasonably complicated new voter registrations procedures set to go into effect on Sept. 8. The new procedures are the result of the passage of SB3 last spring in the NH House. The League contends that the complexity of the forms and procedures will discourage new voters, particularly those in a state of transition in their lives in terms of where they live. SB3 created a process impossible to explain in short simple language, which is how we have to explain things in our voter information brochures and on our website. We hope to stop the implementation so we won't be compelled to attempt the impossible...and also so this solution in search of a problem can go away.
The suit itself is 86 pages and we can't post such a large document on the LWVNH.org website. We hope the press release tomorrow will include a link to the court file stamped document.
The primary law firm is Perkins Coie LLP, who have prepared numerous lawsuits across the country on behalf of voting rights groups. The League proudly stands up for the rights of all to vote.
On Sunday, March 26, a standing room only crowd filled the Community Room at Hopkinton Town Library eager to learn what a distinguished panel had to share with them about "Fake News, Tweets and Facts in our Democracy." NH League of Women Voters President Liz Tentarelli served as moderator as Dan Barrick, news director of NHPR; Ralph Jimenez, Concord Monitor editorial writer; John Greabe, UNH Law Professor, and documentary maker John Gfroerer discussed the proliferation of fake news across the media spectrum and the challenge this poses to voters seeking solid, dependable information upon which to make decisions as to what policies or political candidates they should support.
Professor John Greabe emphasized the difficulty of legally challenging Fake News given the central importance in our society of the First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." He cautioned his audience not to expect the courts to solve the challenges posed by fake news.
NH Public Radio News Director Dan Barrick spoke of the very human element of "bias" in all of us, and, reflecting fellow panelist Ralph Jimenez's observations, noted that a journalist's training is focused on the recognition of such natural bias and the intentional determination to examine issues from a variety of perspectives to ensure balanced and accurate reporting.
Ralph Jimenez challenged the audience to "not think of an elephant." In doing so Jimenez demonstrated the views of cognitive science and linguistics professor George Lakoff, whose research helps to explain how fake news works. Simply by hearing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called "crooked Hillary" over and over, voters automatically made a negative association.
Filmmaker John Gfroerer, whose presentation "Television: The Art and Ethics of Manipulation" is included in the NH Humanities Humanities to Go catalogue, shared a series of examples of the acceptance of far-fetched, unsubstantiated stories by uncritical news consumers.
The panelists spoke of a time not so long ago when there was justifiable public confidence in the solid reporting of journalists like Walter Cronkite. The internet and the growth of "infotainment" sources make the creation and proliferation of fake news a growth industry. Still, today there are many excellent and dependable journalists working diligently to provide the solid information citizens in a democracy rely. However, Ralph Jimenez cautioned his audience, it is now imperative that citizens practice "discernment" and rely on multiple reputable news sources and utilize fact-checking services whenever there is reason to doubt a news report.
As Doris Haddock, NH's own "Granny D." said, "Democracy is not something you have, it is something you do." In the era of fake news, that means we need to do what is necessary to get the information we must have to exercise our rights as citizens.
(League member Janet Ward was the driving force behind this program and wrote the above summary for us. More than 110 people attended. For more information on the topic of Fake News, people might want to seek out area libraries that offer presentations on how to recognize internet fake news sites, given by library personnel or by guest speaker Randall Mikkelson.)
State Rep Wayne Burton wrote this Op Ed piece about HB 112, on which the League has testified at every opportunity. We are opposed to the bill that links car registration to voter registration, and were part of the lawsuit challenging that in 2012. Read his piece from the Foster's Daily Democrat of March 24, 2015