Judges prepare for first New Hampshire primary with ID law in place

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CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire designated two judges to hear voter and ballot challenges during the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Feb. 9 — the first time the state's voter identification law takes effect.

Voters will be asked to show identification, like a driver's license or military ID. Voters who come to the polls without identification will be required to sign an affidavit and have their pictures taken.

Justice Tina Nadeau, head of the superior court system, said she tapped Rockingham County Superior Court Judge David Anderson as lead judge, backed up by Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Robert McNamara, to handle challenges, no matter where or when they arise.

"It's not that we're expecting problems, but if one were to emerge we've got this nice game plan," Nadeau said. She said she sent letters to the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties in the state, letting them know about the election challenge protocols and requesting that they provide copies of the two-page "Election Docket Court Procedures" to their staffs, campaign managers and attorneys.

She also asked Republican state chair Jennifer Horn and Democratic chair Raymond Buckley to identify an attorney as a point of contact for the court system.

The protocol outlines that "election cases" may include campaigning issues, the operation of polling places, conduct of campaigns at polling places and the collection and tabulation of results. All complaints will be funneled to Merrimack clerk Tracy Uhrin, who will reach one of the designated judges. Uhrin and the judges will be on standby to field any complaints that arise after normal court hours.

"On election day, we are available 24 hours," Nadeau said.

Under the new system, Nadeau said, complaints can be filed at the nearest or most convenient superior court and will be handled promptly via video or teleconferences.

Nadeau said the new system is a great way for judges to gain expertise in election law. Anderson, she said, has been taking online courses in election law and reading case law in preparation for his new role.

For example, "what happens if there's a snowstorm and someone asks to keep the polling place open into the next day?" Nadeau asked.

Advocates for both the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters have said they will monitor polling places and ensuring that voters know their rights.


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