NH Union Leader Revives Voter Fraud Myth To Support Restrictive ID Laws

The New Hampshire Union Leader relied on anecdotal evidence from past elections to revive the misleading threat of voter fraud to endorse voter ID laws that restrict the right to vote.

In a January 27 editorial, the Union Leader cited two cases of potential fraud that it claims justifies the paper's support for strict photo ID laws: 

Adam Kumpu of Milford was fined $1,000 and his mother, Janine Kumpu of Milford, was fined $250 for the fraud. Janine Kumpu obtained an absentee ballot in her son's name, and he used it to vote in Milford last November. He also voted in person in Keene.

That was proven fraud. Then there is the mystery of a vote recorded in Caitlin Legacki's name in the 2012 general election. The bloggers at Granite Grok reported last week that someone voted in Manchester in 2012 under the name of former Jeanne Shaheen spokesperson Caitlin Legacki.

We confirmed with the city clerk's office that a vote under Legacki's name and address was recorded. But Legacki moved out of New Hampshire shortly after the 2008 election (in which she voted) and was in St. Louis on Election Day 2012, working for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. “It certainly was news to me” that she was checked as having voted in Manchester in 2012, she told us last week.

The Union Leader's anecdotal evidence is futile since neither case was prevented by the voter ID law in place in New Hampshire prior to the 2012 election, nor do the examples prove the law's effectiveness in deterring the minuscule amount of fraud that occurs in elections. New Hampshire's voter ID law requires an eligible photo ID, or voters must sign an affidavit confirming their identity and intention to vote. The Kumpu family example would not be stopped by stricter ID laws as absentee ballots are counted after the polls close in New Hampshire, thus making the redundant vote unpreventable solely with voter ID legislation. The second case, as the editorial noted, could have been a simple mistake, and was not prevented by the ID law. In addition, it does not show any proof that anyone engaged in fraud.

Recent changes to New Hampshire's voter laws have rolled back some of the most aggressive voter suppression tools as adopted in an earlier version of the law, but the state still maintains laws that make it difficult for those without a photo ID to vote. The need to show ID is problematic considering that 11 percent of the nation's eligible voters lack an ID. Voter ID laws impact demographics differently, as low-income individuals, minorities, and women are often less likely to have valid IDs. While the IDs are often free of charge, many find it difficult to obtain the necessary paperwork to prove their eligibility and the time and transportation to locations that provide ID services.

Only 20 cases of confirmed fraud in New Hampshire were recorded between 2000 and 2012, making it clear that voting restrictions, especially those that have a profound impact on specific demographics, are excessive and represent a greater threat to the exercise of democracy than to actual fraud.