inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

New Hampshire Debates Turning Over Public Voter Data to Trump Election Commission

Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner are on board to turn over publicly available New Hampshire voter data to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission. Before that happens though, the matter is under review by the state Attorney General and a petition is circulating the state asking the N.H. House to call a special session to deny the commission’s request.

In a request, Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Vice Chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking states to turn over “publicly available voter roll data” including full names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliation, voter history, any felony convictions, and the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers.

Gardner, who also sits on President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, says he plans to share the Granite State’s information next week if the Attorney General’s office signs off that it’s legal. Gardner said he views the request as a way of crosschecking voters nationwide to ensure that people aren’t voting twice in future elections. His involvement in the commission has been widely criticized by Democrats and advocacy groups who call the commission’s mission a “sham.”

Sununu made it clear that the only information New Hampshire would provide is a voters’ name, address, party affiliation, and voting history, including whether a person voted in a general election and which party’s ballot a voter took during a primary election.

That information is already available to political parties and committees for a price and it should be shared with the commission, Sununu said. The statewide voter checklist can also be viewed by members of the public online, except they can’t “print, duplicate, transmit, or alter the data.” It has yet to be determined if the state will charge the federal government for access to the voter information. Private data — like birthdays and social security numbers — would not be provided by the state because it’s not publicly accessible, he said.

“I think every state should comply. Any state not complying is simply playing politics at this point,” Sununu told MSNBC on Friday. “You have to have a system that people can trust, that people can believe in. And this is simply a review to make sure that where our system is today and where it’s going tomorrow has that integrity.”

As of Wednesday, 44 states have denied the commission’s request for access to their voter information. The White House claims 20 states have agreed to provide the publicly available information and 16 other states are reviewing which information can be released under state laws.

“At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission’s request for publicly available voter information,” Kobach said in a statement. “Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has a right to know.”

Democrats and some legal experts are blasting the request, questioning its legality and saying the data could be used to suppress voters and gerrymander in the future.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said under state law it would be illegal for Gardner to provide private voter information. Gardner and Sununu have indicated they would not provide that information as requested by the commission.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Sununu has chosen the Trump administration’s unwarranted request over the privacy of Granite Staters,” Buckley said in a statement. “He is once again falling in line behind President Trump and pledging to hand over our highly personal information to a federal government commission created at best to soothe the president’s ego, and at worst, undermine the integrity of our elections and disenfranchise millions of voters.”

Paul Twomey, a former House legal counsel and attorney specializing in voting issues, sent a letter to top state officials in the attorney general’s office asking them to “immediately intervene to halt any transmission of voter file information to any entities associated with the federal government by the Secretary of State or his office.”

Twomey, who has also served as a lawyer for several Democratic campaigns, argued that Gardner shouldn’t be the one to determine if the state’s information is released since he was involved in the commission’s request for the information as a sitting member of the commission.

“Gardner thus is the requester and should not take part in any decisions about release of this information,” Twomey wrote. “I urge you to immediately review the applicable statutes and take action to safeguard the privacy of the state’s voters.”

Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky sent his own letter on Monday also saying the state is not required to turn over any information to the commission.

“The Commission has not issued an order or a duly authorized subpoena. Your actions most likely violate New Hampshire law,” he wrote. ““The letter requesting New Hampshire’s voter information makes clear that all records provided to the Commission will be made public. Once the Commission makes our voter information public, it will be subject to commercial exploitation.”

Even former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Fergus Cullen opposes sharing data with the commission.

An online petition on was created on Monday that is requesting the N.H. House call a special session to discuss the commission’s voter information request.

“Tell the Governor and Secretary of State to deny this frivolous and intrusive request that is unacceptable and a troubling violation of the state’s laws governing public disclosure of voter records,” the petition states.

As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 500 signatures, including several from people who live outside New Hampshire.

Several Democratic state lawmakers have indicated they support calling a special session, but House Majority Leader Dick Hinch called their petition “political grandstanding.”

“I have a high level of respect for Secretary of State Bill Gardner and it’s unfortunate that Representative Shurtleff and others in the Democratic Party have chosen to suggest he would divulge information that is not public,” he said. “If Democrats had a genuine concern about the availability of the data, they had decades to change the law. By petitioning for a special session they demonstrate their political motives and their disregard for the usual and customary legislative process.”

Gardner is looking at a law passed last year that allows New Hampshire to share information from its voter registration database with the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

Under state law, “the secretary of state may enter into an agreement to share voter information or data from the statewide centralized voter registration database for the purpose of comparing duplicate voter information with other states or groups of states.”

The law also stipulates that the state “shall only provide information that is necessary for matching duplicate voter information with other states and shall take precautions to make sure that information in the database is secure.”

The commission has yet to have its first meeting, but Gardner is expected to travel to the first gathering that is scheduled for July 19.

Follow Kyle on Twitter.

Sign up for NH Journal’s must-read morning political newsletter.

House Approves Full-Day Kindergarten, Democrats Claim Legislative Victory

In a win for Gov. Chris Sununu’s agenda, the New Hampshire House gave a preliminary vote of approval for full-day kindergarten. While some are calling it a bipartisan victory, the state Democratic Party is taking credit for the proposal getting passed.

Senate Bill 191 calls for providing $14.5 million during the next two fiscal years to help communities that want to implement full-day kindergarten.

In Sununu’s budget proposal, he provided $9 million a year to establish programs in the neediest communities of the Granite State. That original funding amount passed the Senate at the end of March on a 21-2 vote.

The House Education Committee changed the funding to the full $14.5 million to allow all communities, regardless of need, the opportunity to implement the program. About three-quarters of New Hampshire’s communities currently have full-day kindergarten, but the state only pays half the per-student amount for children in kindergarten. The House approved that funding on Thursday on a 247-116 vote.

“I applaud the House for taking this important step today to provide financial support to communities that choose to support and create full-day kindergarten programs,” Sununu said in a statement. “I believe strongly that this is the right thing to do and I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature as the measure moves forward.”

The roll call vote saw 87 Republicans join 160 Democrats in supporting the bill. Many education advocates cheered the bipartisan work of the House and Senate for getting the bill passed.

“With today’s vote, strong bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate are on record supporting increased state funding for full-day kindergarten,” said Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network. “We are encouraged that lawmakers from both parties have made investing kids in the Granite State a priority.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party framed it another way. In their own press release, chairman Ray Buckley called Sununu’s original proposal of funding full-day kindergarten at $9 million a year a “half-baked plan.” He also highlighted that no Democrats opposed the bill and a majority of Republicans (115 of 202) voted against the legislation.

“Today, Democrats held him accountable for his broken promise by finally providing every child in the state full-day kindergarten instead of ceding to his half-baked budget proposal,” he said. “Democrats carried the bill across the finish line in the House, with every single Democratic House member voting for the legislation while a majority of Republican members voted against it. Sununu’s inability to lead almost cost us full-day kindergarten. Today was another example of why we need Democrats in the State House.”

House Republicans are pretty divided over whether the state should pay for full-day kindergarten.

On the House floor, Rep. Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, said she opposed the bill because it removes local control from the communities and removes parental choice.

“It was never intended that 5-year-olds would be sitting at a desk for six hours per day,” she said. “We must allow districts to keep decisions regarding early childhood education as a local control issue so that we can fix Kindergarten and restore it to its intended purpose, which is to foster the individual talents and abilities of each child through exploration, creativity and movement.”

Other Republicans say the bill doesn’t mandate that schools offer full-day kindergarten, but simply allows communities access to funds to help pay for it.

“If Kindergarten is important, why don’t we fund it for everyone?” said Rep. Terry Wolf, R-Bedford. “This bill helps offset the downshifting of costs from state to local communities. Funding education makes a statement that we value education and support our communities.”

SB 191 was one to watch on Thursday because House GOP leadership did not take an official position on the bill or whip any votes. House Speaker Shawn Jasper was presiding over the session, so he didn’t cast a vote, but House Majority Leader Dick Hinch voted in favor of the legislation.

Leaders of the two conservative House caucuses voted against the bill, showing there isn’t widespread support among those factions for full-day kindergarten. Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, who is a leader of the House Republican Alliance, and Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, who is a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, opposed the bill.

SB 191 now heads to the House Finance Committee for representatives to look at the cost since the measure uses state revenues. In an earlier session, members of the committee refused to put any money for kindergarten in its version of the state budget.

After the committee makes a recommendation, the bill returns to the full House for another vote. If the House approves funding again at the $14.5 million-a-year level, then it will go to the Senate.

The Senate could then approve the bill at that funding level or the chamber could reject it in favor of their previous $9 million-a-year plan for targeted communities. If that happens, it’s likely a committee of conferences between the two chambers would be established to negotiate a compromise.

Regardless, the House’s approval of full-day kindergarten on Thursday is a good indication that a bill at some funding level will end up on Sununu’s desk, fulfilling one of his campaign promises.

Follow Kyle on Twitter.

Sign up for NH Journal’s must-read morning political newsletter.