Sec. of State's Office Examines Processes After Disclosure of Nonpublic Info on Voter Checklists

Aug 31, 2017

Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan says the office is reevaluating its guidance to cities and towns after “handwritten confidential, non-public information” was found in the public voter checklists of more than 40 New Hampshire communities.

Scanlan said his office conducts regular training with local pollworkers covering all kinds of angles of the state’s election laws, but they could do a better job explaining what information should and should not appear on those documents when training local election workers.

“We talk to them about the proper way to mark a checklist,” Scanlan said. “In the past, though, I don’t think we have been specific saying that you should not put extraneous stuff on the checklist, because it’s a public document.”

The Secretary of State’s office discovered that nonpublic information was appearing in some public voter checklists last week while reviewing checklists it planned to share with the Trump administration’s election commission. The state is now holding off on sending any records until it’s sure all nonpublic information is redacted and shutting off public access to the local checklists available for public viewing at the state archives building.

The Secretary of State’s office is also asking local clerks to review their checklists for any nonpublic notes and, if needed, restrict public access to those documents, too.

Some of the confidential information found in the public checklists included details about voters who were under domestic violence protective orders and, under state law, were therefore entitled to have their personal information shielded.

“We’re very concerned about protecting the privacy of those voters, as well,” Scanlan said. “We will do what needs to be done to help make sure that process works.”

Voters who have protective orders should know they have multiple options, he added.

“They have the option of voting by absentee, or understanding there is a process they can use if they show up to the polling place in person,” Scanlan said. “However, if the pollworkers at the local level are not aware that those individuals are under some type of a protective order, and as far as they know it’s just another same-day voter registrant going through the process. Unless some kind of flag goes up, there’s a risk those names are going to end up on the public checklist.”

He’s open to working with groups like the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence — which has raised concerns over the public disclosure of domestic violence victims’ information— to make sure everyone is clear on what’s supposed to happen.

“I think we need to understand that process better,” Scanlan said. “I think the voters that have a protective order that want to show up at the polling place also have to understand what the appropriate procedure is for them, if they decide to go to the polling place in person.”