- Staff photo by Lance Booth
Ballot inspector Doreen Thomas, of Merrimack, checks IDs while people come to vote in the primary at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School in Merrimack on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.
- Staff photo by Don Himsel
A voter shows his identification before receiving a ballot in Hollis Tuesday, September 11, 2012.
- Staff photo by Don Himsel
A voter leaves the Amherst Street School polls Tuesday, September 11, 2012.
- Staff photo by Don Himsel
Sign holders stand outside of the Amherst Street School polls early Tuesday morning as primary election voting began.
In some places, 10-15 % of voters don’t have, or won’t show, an ID
Nancy Garvey is Nancy Garvey. She lives in Hudson, and she has the ID to prove it.
After casting her ballot on Tuesday, Garvey said that asking other voters to prove whom they say they are shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.
“It’s a great idea to ensure the person standing there is really the person signing up to vote,” Garvey said. “Everyone should be able to have something.”
Over in Hollis, Frank McDonough was asked to show his ID and didn’t like it one bit. He said the new procedure made him “quite upset.”
“I know it is the law of the land in New Hampshire, but I find it to be nothing more than an attempt by close-minded people to try and suppress minority voter opportunities, not only in New Hampshire but around the country,” he said.
McDonough said he wants the next legislature to reverse “that kind of voter suppression activity.”
Around the area, hundred of voters either refused to show an ID or didn’t bring one to the polls, according to election officials who were asked to keep a tally.
Over at the Hudson Community Center several voters said they thought the law made good sense. James Lawrence, a former Republican State representative, said the law is something the state has long been missing.
“It’s a good initiative. I think it’s something we should have implemented a long time ago,” he said. “If you have nothing to hide and are who you say you are, you should be able to show something to establish that. It’s just good common sense.”
In his town only 59, or 2 percent, of voters Tuesday failed to show an ID. By comparison, in Hollis, more than 10 percent of the 1,303 people who cast votes failed to show their identification.
For the first time in state history, voters were asked to show their IDs on Tuesday. Those who didn’t have identification were still allowed to vote, but were told that in November, they would have to sign an affidavit before they could cast a ballot.
Around the region, participation varied. In smaller towns like Mont Vernon and Lyndeborough, about 15 percent of voters did not show an ID.
Clearly, not everyone thinks the ID law is good for the state.
“I don’t think it makes sense; I don’t see a need for it,” said Barbara Blue, of Hudson. “I don’t think it’s necessarily harmful; I just don’t see a need for it.”
Paul Miller and Elaine Reinitzer, of Hudson, said the law could discourage people from voting – particularly in larger areas with better public transportation and a larger portion of people who don’t need or don’t have driver’s licenses.
“Anything that restricts your right to vote is a bad thing,” Miller said.
Reinitzer said that although lines were for the most part nonexistent for Tuesday’s primary, she fears that during busier elections long lines caused by people having to sign residency affidavits could discourage people from casting their ballot.
Voting officials said some people weren’t happy they were asked to show their identification before receiving a ballot.
“We have had a few people who have been very unhappy with the process – not necessarily with us, but the whole process,” said Nashua Ward 2 Moderator Roberta Woitkowski. “Unfortunately, they do take it out on my ballot inspectors, and that’s not fair.”
“They’re blowing hot and cold,” said Amherst Moderator Steve Coughlan. “Some say, ‘great idea, so glad you’re doing it,’ others say, ‘I’m protesting I’m not telling you what’s in my pocket.’”
In Hollis, Moderator Jim Belanger said most ID-less voters were deliberately a protest against the new voter ID law, but that everybody seemed to know the request for ID was coming.
“We haven’t seen anybody who is surprised. I think the word got out,” he said.
Under the new state law, poll workers were to ask for identification but if a voter didn’t want to provide identification, poll workers would point to information about future changes in voter ID laws and hand over the ballot.
“There have been a few vocal people who really don’t enjoy showing their ID, and yet, that’s the rule,” said Woitkowski. “That’s the law.”
No voter ID will be necessary at the general election in November, either. At that time, however, ID-less voters will have to fill out an affidavit, giving their address, and the state will follow up to make sure that they actually voted.
Over in Ward 3 in Nashua, voters were much more cooperative about showing their IDs, Moderator Skip Barrett said. There were no complaints, and most voters had driver’s licenses or other identification ready to present, Barrett said.
He said about 50 voters an hour were arriving at the polls to vote. At that rate, the total for the city might have matched the prediction from City Clerk Paul Bergeron, a historian of city elections.
Bergeron predicted a turnout of about 7,000 voters, barely 15 percent of the city’s 44,500 registered voters.
“When they have a primary in a presidential election years, a lot of people don’t pay attention to the fact there’s an election today. They ask, ‘what election?’” Barrett said.
“Turnout has been very, very slow” throughout the morning, said Bergeron, who spent Tuesday making the rounds of polling places in the city’s nine wards.
Most polling places averaged 30 to 50 voters an hour, Bergeron said. At Ledge Street School in Ward 4, Bergeron expected fewer than 500 voters for the entire day.
“There’s not a lot of excitement. You don’t see a lot of candidates out there holding signs,” he said.
As for the voter ID law, the review has been mixed, Bergeron said.
“Some people say, I’m happy you’re doing this. Others will say, why do I have to show an ID?”
“There have been a few people who have been angry and rude,” Bergeron said. “That comes with the territory,” he said, adding that overall, there were few such rude comments.
The issue of photo IDs for voters has been one of the most contentious in New Hampshire, and around the country, in the past year. The issue has largely been pushed by the GOP, who see it as a way to eliminate possible voter fraud.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which must sign off on major changes to voting laws, approved the new law earlier this month.
Several other states have implemented far more stringent laws, several of which have been struck down by the federal government as being unconstitutional.