This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.
It’s Election Day, 2016. Circling overhead, a fleet of chartered passenger jets awaits the results of the 4 p.m. exit polls to determine which swing state most needs their cargo of committed voters. It looks like the Granite State is going to be too close to call, and if the campaign can get these few hundred volunteers to the polls by 7, they can register as New Hampshire voters.
WMUR-TV recently reported on a number of short-term Democratic campaign staffers registering to vote in New Hampshire, even though they had no proof that they ever lived here or intended to stay after the election. The drive-through voters that WMUR uncovered included Alana Biden, niece of Vice President Joe Biden, and four campaign workers who stayed at the home of state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark.
As a small, swing state, New Hampshire is used to receiving busloads of out-of-state campaign workers and volunteers. It makes sense for national campaigns to shift their resources, including labor and advertising dollars, to states still in play rather than wasting time and money in Texas or Massachusetts. But they don’t get to move voters around like a game of Risk.
Democrats responded to the report, and the New Hampshire Republican Party’s call on the attorney general to investigate it, with a flurry of false equivalence. They brought up numerous examples of Republican campaigns that hired out-of-staters who registered to vote, and later left the state. But no one is complaining about staffers who move to New Hampshire for work. The problem is with temporary staff who drop in for weeks or even months, crash on someone’s couch or guest room, with no legal ties to the state where they vote.
Every state has a residency requirement to vote. You get to vote where you live. New Hampshire defines a “domicle” as “that one place where a person, more than any other place, has established a physical presence and manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence.”
Manifesting an intent is the key requirement. It means we need more than your word to know you actually live here. The law also requires people in the state for more than 60 days to transfer their driver’s license and register their car here. So either these drive-through voters are here less than 60 days, further weakening an already tenuous claim, or they’re breaking a different law.
It doesn’t take much to establish domicile. A utility bill, lease agreement or driver’s license with your New Hampshire address is enough. But these Obama For America staffers didn’t have any of these because they were just passing through. So they signed affidavits attesting to their ties to the state and left on the first stagecoach out of town.
For years, the secretary of state and attorney general have failed to enforce our residency requirements, running our elections on the honor system. Other states enforce their laws, prosecuting voters who falsely claim residence in order to vote.
Attorney General Joe Foster says he won’t recuse himself, despite having served with Fuller Clark in the state Senate.
“I take conflict seriously, as I noted in my confirmation hearing, and if I didn’t think I could impartially look into a matter, I would recuse myself,” Foster told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
But the conflict isn’t with Fuller Clark. It’s with Obama For America and the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Foster shouldn’t be anywhere near an investigation of the campaign committees that helped elect him in 2008.
The investigation of drive-through voters doesn’t address another common source of voter fraud: absentee voters who no longer live here. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s daughter, Molly Shaheen, has been voting absentee for years, despite living in California. Current and former representatives from both parties have adult children living out of state but casting absentee ballots from their childhood homes.
There are many ways to qualify for an absentee ballot even if you don’t physically reside in New Hampshire, including military deployment and temporary work relocation. Wanting to keep voting for Mom or Dad isn’t one of them. If the folks wanted to keep voting for their relatives, they shouldn’t have moved away.
We can certainly clean up New Hampshire election laws, which seem purposely vague and hard to enforce. But nothing is preventing state officials from prosecuting the clear cases of voter fraud that have recently come to light. If we’re not going to enforce the law and prevent people from other states from stealing our votes, we might as well set up polling stations at baggage claim.
Grant Bosse is editor of New Hampshire Watchdog, an independent news site dedicated to New Hampshire public policy. He is a senior fellow at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.