Gaming elections: Domicile and ‘disenfranchisement’
Sebastian Bradley, son of Republican state Sen. and former U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, voted in both New Hampshire and Colorado in the 2008 general election, when his father was running for Congress. Sebastian, then a student at Colorado State University, voted in person there and by absentee ballot in Wolfeboro, his hometown. Aside from the fact that the young man is in a lot of trouble, what does this tell us about voter fraud in New Hampshire?
First, and most obviously, voter fraud does happen, despite repeated claims to the contrary. Second, it is easy to commit, even with laws declaring it illegal. Third, there are multiple types of voter fraud, which this case allows us to explore.
Sebastian Bradley’s double voting is an obvious offense. But he might have committed another, which is far easier to do and for which New Hampshire has no prohibiting law.
Colorado voting laws state that “The residence given for voting purposes shall be the same as the residence given for motor vehicle registration and for state income tax purposes.” They further state that “A person shall not be considered to have gained a residence in this state, or in any county or municipality in this state, while retaining a home or domicile elsewhere.”
These laws clarify that one cannot claim separate residences to different state agencies, or to different states. A residence is where one registers a car and pays taxes, not where one happens to be staying on Election Day. New Hampshire, though, allows this double residency. The lack of clarity in the state’s domicile laws allows people to claim one residency for tax purposes and another for voting purposes. But as Secretary of State Bill Gardner (a Democrat) says, that is an error that erodes the integrity of our elections.
Sebastian Bradley was hardly “disenfranchised” by Colorado’s residency law. On the contrary, he showed how easy it is for college students to vote absentee even from halfway across the country. The claim that such legal clarity tramples the right to vote is a red herring tossed by those who hope to keep non-residents voting in New Hampshire. Until New Hampshire fixes its domicile law, we will continue to see non-residents of both parties cancelling the votes of bona-fide residents. Though this systematic effort to tamper with New Hampshire elections is not as dramatic as Bradley’s double voting, it is far more widespread and consequential.