Hearing Set In Challenge To Trump's Voter Fraud Commission Request

Aug 7, 2017

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The fight over whether New Hampshire should share voter files with the Trump administration’s election commission has its first court hearing Monday afternoon in Nashua.

Two New Hampshire lawmakers, with the help of the New Hampshire branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, are trying to stop Secretary of State Bill Gardner from sharing information from the statewide voter file with the Trump administration.

Gardner is a member of the same presidential commission that’s making the request.  He has emphasized that New Hampshire would only be sharing what is included in the public voter checklists – which voters can already get copies of on a town-by-town basis.

In a document filed Monday, state attorneys say Gardner is interpreting the Trump administration’s request for voter information as a Right-to-Know request under the state’s public records laws. The state argues that neither the ACLU nor the lawmakers have adequate standing to sue in this case – but also argues against the lawmakers’ claims that sharing the information would violate their privacy.

“All of the information that the Secretary of State intends to provide is already public information to which the petitioners have no right of privacy,” the state writes.

But the ACLU and the lawmakers – Democratic State Senator Bette Lasky of Nashua and Republican State Representative Neal Kurk of Weare – say New Hampshire law only allows certain political campaigns to obtain copies of the full statewide voter list, and only if they pay for it. The Trump panel, they argue, doesn’t qualify and shouldn’t get special treatment.

The ACLU and the lawmakers, in their own court filings, have pointed to the legislative history of the law that opened up access to the statewide voter checklist to political campaigns. 

“The New Hampshire legislature provided no mechanism for [state statute] protections to be cast aside if a non-political requester makes various privacy promises,” the petitioners write in one court filing. “There still would be no statutory authority to produce statewide voter information to this requester.”

The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. The case was originally scheduled to head to court last month, but the initial hearing was postponed pending litigation against the Trump election commission at the federal level. In that case, a federal judge ruled the Trump commission could go forward with its request.

Several other lawsuits have been filed in other states to challenge the release of voter information to the commission.