WEARE — Police Chief Gregory Begin will be heading to court next month to fight an election violation filed against him by the Attorney General's Office.
According to the complaint, filed in the 9th Circuit Court Goffstown Division, Begin was cited for violating RSA 659:21, which prohibits anyone other than election officers or those who are in the process of voting from going behind the “guardrail.”
The guardrail is a barrier established to keep people who aren't voting from entering the polling area.
The charge stems from a complaint filed with the Attorney General's Office after the March 2011 elections at Weare Middle School. Begin, who holds an elected position as police chief, was running for office at the time.
However, the chief said the violation was the result of his efforts to assist a disabled person who needed help getting from his car to the polls.
“I helped a handicapped gentleman through the back door and over to the polls,” Begin said. “For that, I have been charged with a technical violation of the polling laws almost a year after the violation took place.”
Begin said that he wasn't actively campaigning while helping the man.
“I didn't go back there saying 'Vote for me' or holding up a sign,” Begin said. “I assisted him like I do every year.”
Associate Attorney General Richard Head said he couldn't speak to the specific facts of the case, but said the violation-level offense could carry a fine of up to $1,000.
Head said he hasn't seen many cases involving going behind the guardrail, but said that he sees a good number of election law violations, ranging in seriousness from non-criminal violations to felonies.
Begin said he probably could have gone in and paid a fine on the violation, but has hired an attorney to fight the charge.
“I've probably already spent more on attorney fees than I would have if I had just paid a fine,” Begin said, “but for me it's a matter of principle. I'm going to fight this.”
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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.