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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Ronni Karlsberg watches a video on her laptop taken on primary election day at the Broad Street Elementary School polls where she was working. The ballot inspector was videotaped without her knowledge by Project Veritas, as she handed out a ballot to an individual who was posing as a local resident who died recently.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Ronni Karlsberg talks about primary election day at the Broad Street Elementary School polls where she was working. The ballot inspector was videotaped without her knowledge by Project Veritas, as she handed out a ballot to an individual who was posing as a local resident who died recently.
Friday, January 27, 2012

Nashua poll worker upset about being secretly recorded in voter ID video

NASHUA – Ronni Karlsberg decided to be friendly with the man who asked if he needed to provide identification to receive a presidential primary ballot.

Friendliness is an approach that has served Karlsberg well while working as a ballot inspector for more than 10 years at the Ward 1 polling station at Broad Street Elementary School.

Answering the man’s identification query, Karlsberg joked, “Live free or die. This is New Hampshire. No ID needed.”

Karlsberg didn’t feel happy the day after the New Hampshire primary, when a friend informed her she was one of several poll workers surreptitiously recorded in a video produced by Project Veritas, a conservative organization advocating a law requiring voter ID.

“I felt duped,” Karlsberg said in an interview Wednesday. “They took advantage of a group of people who thought they were doing their job.”

Although Karlsberg agrees with the argument that some form of identification should be presented by voters, she didn’t want to help Project Veritas’ cause. The incident made her briefly consider not volunteering at the polls again, but she has since committed to keeping her position in the future, including Election Day in November.

Project Veritas had at least two men record themselves asking for ballots at polls in Nashua and Manchester.

The men used the names of people who had died just a few months, or even weeks, before the Jan. 10 primary to demonstrate the ease with which people can obtain ballots.

The video went viral and became a national news story. Many news organizations, included The Telegraph, showed and referenced Karlsberg’s “Live free or die” quip in their coverage.

As Karlsberg sat at home watching the video and the news stories, she felt she and her fellow polls workers had been betrayed.

They followed the rules on checking in voters at polls, but were unwittingly used as props in a politically-motivated video, she said.

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s office continues to investigate Project Veritas’ voter ID video and voting procedures. Associate Attorney General Richard Head said Wednesday the investigation will take time.

Karlsberg and City Clerk Paul Bergeron believe Project Veritas broke several laws on primary day, including the recording of people without permission.

“All of my election officials handled themselves properly,” Bergeron said.

As seen in the video, Bergeron said, Nashua checklist workers such as Karlsberg followed protocol: They repeated the names offered by the would-be voters, repeated the names again after finding them on the voter checklist, and then offered an address to confirm the men’s identities.

The man who approached Karlsberg late morning on primary day wore a long black overcoat, she said. He had an accent, possibly British, she said.

Karlsberg didn’t notice a camera, but a poll worker who asked not be identified said the men might have used cell phone cameras.

In the video, the man said to Karlsberg: “Hello. Do you have a Reynold Caron on your list please?”

Karlsberg read aloud a street address; the man confirmed it. She responded, “That’s you,” and extended a ballot. The man then said he left his ID in the car.

Karlsberg responded, “Live free or die. This is New Hampshire. No ID needed. Don’t come back, though. I’ll remember you.” She then told the man that he is a registered Democrat.

He replied that he is not a registered Democrat, but then quickly changes course and said he is.

Then, as he and the other would-be voters demonstrate in the video, the man didn’t vote. He placed the ballot on the table and quickly turned toward the gymnasium exit, saying he’d rather get his ID in the car to show it to Karlsberg.

Bergeron said no state or federal database exists in which the clerk’s office can confirm if people have died outside of Nashua. Once a month, the staff confirms deaths in Nashua and removes those voters from the checklist but cannot do so for those who have died elsewhere, especially hospitals in Massachusetts, he said.

The most recent checklist was verified by the city Board of Public Registrars just six days before the primary, Bergeron said.

The men in the Project Veritas video offer the names of people who have recently died, perhaps knowing these names had not yet been flagged by city clerks in Nashua and Manchester.

Speaking about the incident at her home Wednesday, Karlsberg said she remembered the man for many reasons, including how he had an accent and ultimately left the ballot unused.

She and other poll workers found his actions odd at the time, but went on with their busy day.

Supporters of a photo voter ID claim it would end voter fraud. Opponents say fraud is minimal at most, and that requiring a photo ID would disenfranchise the poor and elderly who would have trouble obtaining such identification.

Karlsberg favors the use of a voter ID, though not necessarily one that would require a photograph. But despite agreeing with Project Veritas, she didn’t like how the organization recorded her and used her comments for political gain.

“I was just trying to be friendly,” Karlsberg said, adding that she has long used the “Live free or die” expression with voters who have questioned why they aren’t required to show an ID.

Voters sometimes offer their drivers licenses, and Karlsberg and other ballot inspectors will accept them to make the process easier, she said.

But, as the law states, voters are not required to do so, she said.

Karlsberg doesn’t believe she will handle herself any differently in future elections.

Changing her approach would be difficult anyway because she and her other workers follow the law, she said. She enjoys the sense of community engendered on Election Day, chatting with familiar faces and meeting new people.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-6528 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out McKeon (@Telegraph_AMcK) on Twitter.