NASHUA, N.H. (CN) – New Hampshire’s secretary of state will send voter data to President Donald Trump’s election-integrity commission but the information will not be made public in a digital file, after the state reached a resolution with the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The two sides came to a compromise Monday just as a hearing was about to begin on the civil rights group’s request for an injunction to block Secretary of State Bill Gardner from releasing information to the commission.
New Hampshire will produce scanned copies of paper checklists from every city and town across the state, but the submitted material will not be made public.
In a lawsuit filed July 6 in Hillsborough County Superior Court, two state lawmakers and the ACLU-NH expressed concern that Gardner intended to release voter information in a publicly available, searchable digital file.
Gardner – a Democrat who sits on Trump’s voter fraud commission – argued that the right-to-know law required him to respond to the commission’s June 28 and July 26 request for publicly available voter registration information. That information includes voters’ names, addresses, party affiliation and whether they voted in the last election.
“Our office strives to foster a sense of integrity and transparency in the elections process and to help increase voter confidence which in turn increases voter turnout. For the ACLU to argue, without justification, that this office would seek to harm the voting public by disclosing historic voter information only served to unnecessarily undermine voter confidence and frustrate the positive and trustworthy impression our office tries to give the voters of New Hampshire,” Gardner said in a statement after the resolution.
The ACLU-NH said its lawsuit ultimately led Gardner to back down on releasing the state voter data publicly.
“I am pleased that the secretary of state has agreed to not disclose the statewide public checklist,” said New Hampshire Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, a plaintiff in the case. “The secretary of state had no statutory authority to release digital information on the statewide public voter data base to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office.”
New Hampshire Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Hillsborough, another plaintiff in the case and one of the legislators who crafted a state law limiting the sharing of voter checklists, reiterated his privacy concerns in a statement.
“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of the statewide voter checklist—and limited to political entities—for good reason: to protect voter privacy by helping avoid the mass dissemination of statewide vote information in a form that represented a threat to the privacy of the voters,” he said.
Lasky, Kurk and the ACLU-NH were represented in the now-dismissed lawsuit by attorney Paul Twomey in Chichester, N.H.
A federal case in Washington challenging the commission’s request put their original suit on hold. After that case was dismissed and the commission sent another letter requesting information, the plaintiffs reinstated their case.
The ACLU-NH said on its website that while this challenge over voter data has been resolved, the plaintiffs still believe that laws regarding the disclosure of voter information “need to be tightened so voters are even further protected in the future and pledge to work in a nonpartisan manner to bring about such changes.”