Fitch hired to probe possible New Hampshire voter fraud
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Voting rights and potential fraud remain politically charged issues in New Hampshire, but the state’s new elections investigator said he’s ignoring the partisan divide and focusing on his job.
The hiring of Orville “Bud” Fitch by the secretary of state’s office comes as Republican lawmakers have increasingly sought to tighten voter registration and other election laws. The Republican-led Legislature included the new investigator position to enforce election laws in the state budget, and it passed legislation requiring the secretary of state’s office to look into cases in which address verification letters sent to voters are returned by the postal service as undeliverable.
Fitch said he was confident in his ability to get the job done and “to provide professional and thorough work.”
“I’m at this point required to be and glad to be a completely nonpartisan public servant doing this work,” Fitch said Monday. “I think those I’ve had the pleasure of working with, I’ve earned a fairly positive reputation with them.”
Fitch, besides spending 15 years in the attorney general’s office, served as legal counsel to Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and was appointed by former Democratic Gov. John Lynch to oversee the disbursement of federal stimulus grants.
New Hampshire law allows people who don’t take proper identification to the polls to vote if they fill out affidavits swearing their identities and domiciles. The secretary of state’s office then sends letters to the addresses given, requiring voters to verify their addresses by returning postcards to the state. Part of Fitch’s job will be to further investigate in cases in which those postcards aren’t returned or the letters come back.
A new state law that took effect in September requires voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election to provide proof that they intend to stay, but Democrats have challenged it in court, arguing it presents confusing, unnecessary and intimidating hurdles to voting. And Fitch’s new boss, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat, has been criticized for his participation on President Donald Trump’s commission investigating voter fraud.
Trump, a Republican, created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May to investigate his unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Democrats have blasted the commission as a biased panel determined to curtail voting rights.