N.H. questions same-day voter registration

MANCHESTER (AP) – The state wants to know how many people registered to vote in New Hampshire on Election Day without being able to prove they live in the state or have U.S. citizenship.

The Secretary of State’s office is planning to send letters asking the question to voter registration officials today, according to The Union Leader.

The inquiry is focusing on the “domicile affidavit” or “citizenship affidavit” people can sign when they register. Voters who can’t prove they are citizens or that they live at a particular address are allowed to sign an affidavit swearing the information is true. The penalty for giving false information is up to one year in prison.

But Jim Merrill, New Hampshire Republican Party lawyer, said the system invites abuse.

“I think we ought to look at it and say to ourselves how can we change it to make it better,” he said.

More than 96,000 people registered to vote on Election Day overall. They made up about 15 percent of the state’s turnout.

Orville Fitch, who has been overseeing election issues for the state attorney general, said he hopes to compile a “snapshot” of the affidavit’s use. He said the research may show if they’re used more often in some areas, such as southern border communities, when compared to central or northern areas.

“Many people have expressed concern that Election Day registration or registration with domicile affidavit, or the two combined, are creating some opportunity to fraudulently register,” he said, “and I think it’s helpful to us to know if that is remarkably different on Election Day compared to the rest of the year.”

Federal law requires states to compile centralized voter lists by the 2006 elections. New Hampshire communities will be submitting lists of all new voters who have registered since the beginning of 2004 as part of the requirement.

Fitch said along with Monday’s letters, the centralization process will help the state compile a record of which registered voters used affidavits. That will provide an even more complete picture, he predicted.

“We’ll have a data set where we can do a more comprehensive analysis and look at whether the use of domicile affidavits or citizenship affidavits on Election Day is remarkably different than on non-election days,” he said.

Fitch also stressed that there’s been no evidence of such fraud so far.

“History would suggest it’s not the case,” he said.