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This sign was placed on the door to New Boston Elementary School, the town's polling place during a May 17 special election. It was later removed on order of the N.H. Secretary of State, who oversees elections.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Polling place sign said photo IDs were needed to vote

NEW BOSTON – Signs asking voters for photo IDs were removed by officials from the polling place in New Boston on Tuesday morning amid controversy that some were voters were turned away without casting ballots.

The signs voters that “per pending legislation,” they should be prepared to present a photo ID before getting a ballot for a special state representative race.

Assistant Secretary of State Karen Ladd confirmed complaints about the sign came in early Tuesday to the election hot line at Attorney General Michael Delaney’s office.

The sign was posted at New Boston Elementary School, one of the five polling locations in the five-town district. It read: “Per pending legislation you will be required to produce a photo ID in order to receive a ballot.”

There is no state law requiring a photo ID before someone can vote in New Hampshire. House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, has championed that idea, however, in a bill (SB 129) before the House Finance Committee.

Town Moderator Lee Nyquist confirmed that three such signs had been posted at the elementary school, the town’s polling place. He said the signs were put up following town officials’ decision last week to do a trial run at Tuesday’s polls, in the event pending legislation to require photo ID’s of voters passes this year.

Nyquist said poll workers were instructed to ask for an ID, but that if the voter refused or didn’t have one, they would still be allowed to vote.

Nyquist said after someone complained, he re-read the signs and, around 10:40 a.m., decided to take them down.

“I thought, upon reading them again, the language was ambiguous in a way that could be misconstrued,” Nyquist said.

Nyquist said that around 11:30 a.m., he instructed the poll workers to stop asking voters for ID’s.

Voters in five towns chose between two candidates to succeed Robert Mead, of Mont Vernon, who resigned his House seat after O’Brien named him to the full-time job as the speaker’s chief of staff. O’Brien and Mead are good friends who often share car rides to the Statehouse. Mead and O’Brien are both Republicans.

Jennifer Daler, of Temple, and beat Republican Peter Kucmas, of New Boston, to replace Mead.

In 2006, Daler won one of the four House seats, upsetting O’Brien in the election in which Democrats won control of the Legislature, the Executive Council and the governor’s office. Two years later, O’Brien won back a seat and Daler lost.

Kucmas was a first-time candidate.

On Tuesday, House GOP leaders presented plans to try to lower the six-figure cost of the voter ID bill.

Under the pending House plan, voters would have to go to their city or town clerks and show proof of identity within three days of the election for their ballot to count.

Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said some voters saw the sign and walked away without casting a ballot.

“Law-abiding New Hampshire citizens were discouraged from voting this morning as a direct result of Speaker’s O’Brien’s terrible piece of legislation,” Kirstein said. “Just moments before O’Brien defended this reckless bill in Concord, voters in his own district were walking away from the polls without having cast a vote.”

The Hillsborough District 4 special election was held in Mont Vernon, Wilton, Temple and Lyndeborough. New Boston is by far the largest town in the district.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.