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Feb 4, 2015 3:49 PM

ACLU, NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner in court again


CONCORD - The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the state's top election official are sparring once again in court.

The ACLU is asking a Strafford County Superior Court judge to find Secretary of State Bill Gardner for violating a 2012 election decision that had ruled a state election form for new votes unconstitutionally vague and confusing.

The complaint came after Gardner's office sent out thousands of letters to those who cast ballots without ID at the polls in last November's mid-term elections.

The lawsuit accuses Gardner of ignoring the court's earlier ruling and trying to intimidate voters into becoming permanent residents.

"The letter wrongly informs people that just because you've registered to vote in New Hampshire that in 60 days you have to register your motor vehicle as well. That's simply not true,'' William Christie, the ACLU lawyer, told NH1.

Gardner said these letters have been going out for more than a decade right after the election and are a different part of the state election laws than the form that was struck aside before the 2012 election.

"So it's standard. This is not the first election; there have been multiple elections that this has been part of,'' Gardner said.

The lawsuit calls upon Gardner to send corrective letters to all that received an earlier one.

Christie said the ACLU is hoping for a hearing in the matter in the coming weeks.

Gardner said his letter mentioned the earlier court decision about the registration form, noting that the lower court ruling has remained on appeal to the state Supreme Court for nearly a year and a half.

"We did everything proper here and this lawsuit is without any merit,'' Gardner said.

The post-election letters are dealt with in a state election law written about a decade ago by Hudson Republican State Rep. Shawn Jasper who recently became speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Gardner, the longest serving election official in the country, has campaigned for more than a year to tighten up the state definition of domicile. His hope is to crack down on those who aren't really residents of the state from taking advantage of the loose language to cast ballots here.


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