House Election Law Chair Calls Secretary of State Election Training Procedures Into Question After Embarrassing Voter Assistance Inquiry

During the November 2018 State General Election, a Charlestown mother assisted her disabled son at the polls. NH RSA 659:20, Assistance in Voting, is quite clear that “a person of the voter’s choice” may assist a voter who needs assistance in marking the ballot.   19-year-old Justin Milliken is a registered voter in the town of Charleston; he has cerebral palsy and a seizure condition and cannot fill out a paper ballot on his own. A Charlestown Supervisor of the Checklist subsequently filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office questioning whether Justin could effectively communicate his choice in candidates.

Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s office cleared Justin’s mother, Dee, of any wrongdoing in assisting her disabled son at the polls, dismissing any suggestion she had committed voter fraud, and chastised Nancy Houghton, the Supervisor of the Checklist who had filed the complaint by pointing out “…that the Supervisors of the Checklist have no responsibility with respect to the voter assistance oath…” and warned that in the future, “…if any Charlestown election official has any questions regarding…allowing a registered voter to vote, they should always call either the Attorney General’s Office or the Secretary of State’s office to discuss the situation before…denying a voter the right to vote.”

On June 14th, Rep. David Cote of Nashua, Chair of the House Election Law Committee, issued a press release urging the Secretary of State’s office “to review current training procedures for local elections to ensure that such an embarrassment does not recur anywhere in the State of New Hampshire ever again.” He continued, “I am troubled by recent reports in the wake of these events, that Mr. Milliken may be discouraged in the future exercise of his right to vote. I would urge him not to allow the exceptionally poor judgment shown on this occasion to affect in any way his enthusiasm for exercising this precious and vital constitutional right.”

In a statement released by the NH Disability Rights Center, the Center also voiced concern about the “problematic lack of training for Charlestown poll workers and election officials around voters who require assistance in voting, and accessible voting generally.”

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