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THE INVISIBLE HAND: CASE STUDY IN STRIPPING AWAY ELECTION RIGHTS

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New questions on election transparency have surfaced in New Hampshire, where the powerful First-In-The-Nation presidential primary will take place in 2012. If New Hampshire is to have its thumb on the scale in presidential politics, transparency needs to be an absolute requirement. In a bizarre chain of events, nontransparency was entered surreptitiously into a New Hampshire statute in 2003.

NEW HAMPSHIRE IS GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN

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Ballots are an open record under Colorado law though clerks are fighting the public on this. Marilyn Marks, supported by Black Box Voting, is litigating over wrongful denial of public right to inspect Colorado ballots. This is currently in the Colo. Supreme Court now (Looking good so far ... more on that below).

In Wisconsin where a hot political recount is taking place, the public can opt to examine ballots with or without a recount. In Michigan, the public can even take pictures of ballots. In Florida, a consortium of news organizations examined ALL the ballots from the 2000 presidential election. In California, two counties (Humboldt and Yolo) make photocopies of all the ballots available to the public for examination.

But in 2003, New Hampshire ballots were ever-so-quietly EXCLUDED from public right to know. How could this happen?

THE INVESTIGATION INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE'S REMOVAL OF BALLOTS FROM RIGHT-TO-KNOW LAW

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Black Box Voting director Bev Harris, board member Nancy Tobi, and an extraordinary New Hampshire citizen named Deborah Sumner conducted an investigation this month into New Hampshire's action to exempt ballots from its Right-to-Know law. What we found was shocking.

From: Deborah Sumner
Subject: The mystery of why ballots are exempted from NH Right to Know Law

"Still trying to track down more info on why ballots were exempted from NH right to know law. It seems to me, if there was any discussion, it was removed from the official record or took place behind closed doors."

Sumner learned that in 2003 the New Hampshire State Senate sneaked an extraneous amendment into an unrelated bill, HB 627, pertaining to defining domicile to comply with a Help America Vote requirement.

In other words, in a bill about residency requirements for voter registration, suddenly, magically, and out of thin air, an amendment appeared to exclude ballots from New Hampshire right to know law.

"No evidence the amendment had a public hearing," Sumner writes. "Original bill did in the House."

TO PASS A LAW IN NEW HAMPSHIRE:

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Both the New Hampshire House and Senate must pass the bill, and it must be identical in form.

In the case of 2003 House Bill 627, the house passed a bill which had nothing to do with excluding ballots from public right to know.

The senate got the bill, went into committee, had a hearing and obtained a detailed opinion from the attorney general, all pertaining to a bill that had NO LANGUAGE WHATSOEVER about removing ballots from public oversight.

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http://www.blackboxvoting.org
Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.

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