Devon Chaffee

Jul 102015
 

ACLU-NH Welcomes Governor’s Veto of Unconstitutional Voting Restrictions

PRESS RELEASE
7/10/2015
Contact
Devon Chaffee, Executive Director, ACLU of New Hampshire
603-224-5591

Today, Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed Senate Bill 179, which would have placed new restrictions on the right to vote in New Hampshire. The vetoed bill, for example, would have required a voter to be domiciled in New Hampshire for 30 days before voting in the state.

“We commend the Governor’s decision to veto SB 179.  This bill would have needlessly disenfranchised people who live in New Hampshire and are constitutionally-entitled to vote here,” said Devon Chaffee, the Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. “No legitimate justification was ever articulated for placing such significant burdens on the right to vote.”

Under SB 179, a high school teacher who moves from Kittery to Portsmouth in late August to take a new teaching position would have been completely prevented from voting in a mid-term September primary election in Portsmouth where she now lives.  The U.S. Supreme Court has held that such durational requirements unjustifiably disenfranchise voters. (Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972).)  As the Court explained in Dunn, “it is impossible to view durational … requirements as necessary to achieve that state interest [of preventing voter fraud]” because, by definition, such a requirement bars from the franchise newly-arrived Granite Staters who live here and are not fraudulent voters.

In many states, voters can register to vote when they get their driver’s license or through other readily available means. In such states, there is an administrative justification to have a cut-off date for registration to allow the state to get the voter rolls in order before Election Day. However, in New Hampshire voters can register to vote at the polls on the day of an election. Because there is no cut-off date for registration in New Hampshire, this means that there is no administrative justification for the 30 day durational requirement proposed in SB 179.  Significantly, the Secretary of State’s Office, when repeatedly asked by legislators, has been unable to present any administrative reason why this bill is necessary.

Only a handful of states that have same day registration also have a durational requirement like the one proposed in SB 179, and none of those have been challenged in court.  In Maine, which has same day registration, the state’s Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion rejecting a 30-day durational requirement because there was no administrative justification for the provision.  SB 179 is no different.

The Governor’s decision to veto this restrictive law comes just over one month after the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down a controversial 2012 voter suppression law which added language to the state’s voter registration form that would have frozen out students and other eligible voters from the elections.

“The New Hampshire Supreme Court’s recent decision made clear that unjustified, burdensome restrictions on voting rights are unconstitutional.  It is unfortunate that the House has continued to try to make voting more difficult for eligible voters despite this decision,” added Chaffee. “Like the law we successfully challenged, SB 179 is impermissible under Article 11 of the U.S. Constitution.”

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 July 10, 2015
Jun 032015
 

PRESS RELEASE

June 3, 2015

Contact
Devon Chaffee, Executive Director, ACLU of New Hampshire
603-224-5591

NH House Approves New, Unconstitutional Voting Restrictions

 

This afternoon, on a party-line vote, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed an amended version of Senate Bill 179 that places new restrictions on the right to vote in New Hampshire. The amended version of the bill, for example, requires a voter to be domiciled in New Hampshire for 30 days before voting in the state.

“This bill needlessly disenfranchises people who live in New Hampshire and are constitutionally-entitled to vote here,” said Devon Chaffee, the Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire.  “No legitimate justification has been articulated for placing such significant burdens on the right to vote.”

Under SB 179, a high school teacher who moves from Kittery to Portsmouth in late August to take a new teaching position would be completely prevented from voting in a mid-term September primary election in Portsmouth where she now lives.  The U.S. Supreme Court has held that such durational requirements unjustifiably disenfranchise voters. (Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972).)  As the Court explained in Dunn, “it is impossible to view durational … requirements as necessary to achieve that state interest [of preventing voter fraud]” because, by definition, such a requirement bars from the franchise newly-arrived Granite staters who live here and are not fraudulent voters.

In many states, voters can register to vote when they get their driver’s license or through other readily available means. In such states, there is an administrative justification to have a cut-off date for registration to allow the state to get the voter rolls in order before Election Day. However, in New Hampshire voters can register to vote at the polls on the day of an election. Because there is no cut-off date for registration in New Hampshire, this means that there is no administrative justification for the 30 day durational requirement proposed in SB 179.  Significantly, the Secretary of State’s Office, when repeatedly asked by legislators, has been unable to present any administrative reason why this bill is necessary.

Only a handful of states that have same day registration also have a durational requirement like the one proposed in SB 179, and none of those have been challenged in court.  In Maine, which has same day registration, the state’s Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion rejecting a 30-day durational requirement because there was no administrative justification for the provision.  SB 179 is no different.

The House of Representative’s decision to pass this restrictive law comes just over two weeks after the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down a controversial 2012 voter suppression law which added language to the state’s voter registration form that would have frozen out students and other eligible voters from the elections.

“The New Hampshire Supreme Court’s recent decision made clear that unjustified, burdensome restrictions on voting rights are unconstitutional.  It is unfortunate that the House has continued to try to make voting more difficult for eligible voters despite this decision,” added Chaffee. “Like the law we successfully challenged, SB 179 is impermissible under Article 11 of the U.S. Constitution.”

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 June 3, 2015  Tagged with:
May 202015
 

May 20, 2015

ACLU of NH to State’s Technology Leaders: Data Privacy Conversation Must Include Security

Encryption and businesses’ role in protecting customer and employee information the focus of private event

Concord, NH – Google and Apple are actually leaders in data security, while many government entities such as the terrorism hotline were not, until very recently, encrypted. These are just two of the facts state and national experts in cybersecurity and privacy shared at a meeting that was convened by the  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Hampshire. The meeting featured a lively and deep discussion regarding the need to use current technology to protect basic information and the balance between protecting key data in a digital world and providing access to that data to protect national and international security.

“As individuals and organizations, we have an incredible amount of information, and there are people out there who are actively trying to obtain it for the wrong reasons,” said the ACLU of New Hampshire Executive Director Devon Chaffee. “As our systems become more and more digitally connected, major security and privacy concerns arise in both the public and private arenas. It’s our hope that the hundreds of lawmakers in New Hampshire explore and understand this issue. Not being tech-savvy is no longer an excuse.”

The best way to protect consumer privacy and embrace the responsibility to protect data is through encryption, according to Chris Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

“There is an opportunity here for companies to fight for their customers,” Soghoian said to the group of technology leaders on May 13. “If you have data, eventually someone will try and take it; or you will be forced to hand it over. Encryption is the best way to protect yourself and your clients.”

Tech giants like Google and Apple are leading the charge by building security into their products. Google prioritizes browsing security with HTTPS authentication protocol that creates secure browsing channels over insecure networks, and Apple built strong encryption into phones so police require a warrant and PIN number to access information from them.

“At one point, most emails were not encrypted and our daily lives online were not secure, so the NSA and their partners could tune in and access whatever they wanted,” Soghoian said. “In the last five years, companies have started to encrypt, forcing the government to go to Google, for example, to get the information because the Internet is slowly defaulting to secure browsing.”

But that’s not enough.

Companies across all industries and sizes should encrypt by default, from websites and intranets to phone and email messaging, according to Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties policy attorney for ACLU of Northern California. Doing so protects not only a customer’s data, but also the company, as Internet security is a private issue in the eyes of the law.

“The law is lagging behind, Cagle said. “Go above and beyond what the law requires and only relinquish data if there’s a subpoena. Be transparent with consumers and about information requests received from state and federal organizations. Make sure your customers know that you will fight for their data when local police come knocking on the door.”

Cities also have the opportunity to boost economic development by embracing privacy and security standards and creating a business-friendly community that protects data better than competing cities. One way to get started, according to the ACLU, is to consult with an expert to ensure you have the data you need to make business decisions, but don’t have a treasure trove of data that’s largely useless for you but attractive to hackers. Consider how long you really need to keep data on file, and find the right balance between privacy, risk and profit.

“Why do supermarkets have databases of hundreds of millions of credit card numbers?” Soghoian said. “We don’t have a system in place for how this information is handled; we don’t have a financial regulation; we need responsible data governance within our organizations.”

And responsible governance begins with a conversation about privacy. According to a new poll conducted by the ACLU, there are three standout situations when people are generally receptive to discussing and acting on issues of privacy. The first occurs when a private conversation – perhaps accessing financial information or medical records, for example – is intercepted and intruded upon. The second is when people are empowered to decide how and when they share (and stop sharing) content, regardless of the perceived sensitivity of that content. While a young professional may want to selectively share business accomplishments through social media platforms, he or she may prefer to hide personal details from family or business contacts, the study shows. Lastly, the ACLU found that people are generally open to discussing privacy matters in terms of legality and whether law-abiding citizens should be subjected to the same surveillance guidelines as convicted or suspected law-breakers.

“We want to start this conversation with individuals, businesses and local government, and expand the discussion about online privacy to include data security,” Chaffee said. “There are serious concerns about our state’s physical infrastructure; those concerns need to also extend to digital infrastructure and to allocating resources to make sure our information superhighways are as safe as our roads and bridges.”

The ACLU of New Hampshire is a resource for companies looking to create policies that protect privacy and free speech, tackle critical privacy issues, navigate federal and state laws, and consider emerging technologies and the impact they may have on individual rights. To learn more about the ACLU of New Hampshire or find resources to address data security for your company, visit aclu-nh.org or contact Devon Chaffee at 603-224-5591 or devon@aclu-nh.org.

About The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire

The ACLU of New Hampshire is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the individual rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and the New Hampshire Constitution. The organization has over 3,000 members and has been advancing civil liberties throughout the Granite State for over forty years through litigation, community education, and legislative and policy advocacy.

 May 20, 2015
May 182015
 

Poll of New Hampshire Voters Shows Clear Support for Ending the Patriot Act in Its Current Form

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 18, 2015

CONTACT: Devon Chaffee, 603-224-5591,  devon@aclu-nh.org

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union released the results of a poll today showing decisive support among New Hampshire voters for substantive reform to the U.S. government’s surveillance practices. The survey found nearly two-thirds of respondents in New Hampshire believe that the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized in its current form.

This support remains constant regardless of age, gender, or party affiliation – including Republicans who favor reform by a 20 point margin. This uniform agreement that the government’s surveillance authority must be reformed is in notable contrast to the views expressed by some GOP presidential hopefuls such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. While Governor Christie has expressed doubt that Americans need or want their privacy protected, the Republican voters he is currently courting in New Hampshire clearly disagree.

The poll also found more than three in four New Hampshire voters are concerned that the government is storing American’s personal information. There was considerable consensus around several arguments in favor of strengthening American’s privacy rights. Eighty-five percent of respondents found it persuasive that the local police and the FBI should have a get a warrant in order to search phone and email records. Similarly, 75 percent believed that the government’s current ability to access personal conversations was a reason to implement reform.

Congress is currently considering reauthorizing components of the Patriot Act, including the controversial Section 215. This provision is being used to authorize bulk collection of telephone metadata despite a federal appeals court ruling earlier this month finding the program illegal – a case brought to court and argued by the ACLU.

The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, surveyed 400 likely voters in New Hampshire between April 24 and April 28, 2015.

The poll results are at:

https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/new_hampshire_privacy_poll_results.pdf

 

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 May 18, 2015  Tagged with:
Apr 082015
 

On March 26th hundreds of people from dozens of organizations came together in Washington D.C. with one task in mind—to express shared commitments to reforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system.  This Bipartisan Summit included participants from the progressive Soros backed Open Society Foundation to the conservative Heritage Foundation, united only in their shared belief that the blight of mass incarceration in our country must be addressed.

For the last four decades, the United States has relentlessly expanded the size of its criminal justice system. Since 1970 the U.S. prison population has risen 700%. While the United States has only 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prison population – making us the world’s largest jailer. Our massive prison system has come at a devastating social and financial cost to our communities, separating families, making it nearly impossible for people to find jobs upon release, and imposing penalties without regard to whether they serve the most important purpose of our system: ensuring community safety.

We use prison far too often. And in far too many cases incarceration not only doesn’t work, it hurts us. Moreover, African Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly and disproportionately bear the brunt of mass incarceration, even where they commit offenses, such as using drugs, at the same rate as white people.

In America, our criminal justice system should keep communities safe and treat people fairly, regardless of the color of their skin or the size of their bank account. That is why it is so important that legislators, advocates, law enforcement, community representatives and others from both sides of the aisle are finally coming together to press for systemic change.

That is also why the ACLU-NH joined Mark Holden, General Counsel of Koch Industries, Inc. and Christine Leonard, Executive Director of the Coalition for Public Safety in an op-ed in today’s Union Leader calling for New Hampshire to be a leader in criminal justice reform.

The ACLU will continue to work to end excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society. And we will continue to seek out unusual allies, in New Hampshire and nationally, to help us achieve this critical goal.

 April 8, 2015  Tagged with:
Nov 042014
 

In celebration of election day, we are posting the ACLU of NH’s op-ed on voting rights in New Hampshire, which was published in the Concord Monitor on October 5, 2014 and the New Hampshire Business Review on October 23, 2014.  The op-ed was authored by Devon Chaffee, the ACLU of NH’s executive director, as well as Liz Tentarelli (co-president of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire), Paula Hodges (the state director of America Votes – New Hampshire), and Kary Jencks (executive director of New Hampshire Citizens Alliance).

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Secretary of State William Gardner recently made public comments that threaten the fundamental right to vote held by citizens who live in New Hampshire and call this state home.

The secretary suggested that only citizens who meet the legal definition of “resident” under state law should be able to vote. He added that the Granite State permits “drive-by” voter fraud.

Respectfully, he’s wrong.

Gardner’s view that voting should be reserved for those who meet the definition of “resident” under state law would, if enacted, deprive the right to vote to thousands of citizens who call New Hampshire home. His position also violates Part I, Article 11 of the state constitution and has repeatedly been rejected by courts for more than 40 years.

Just recently, the secretary’s view was rejected by two separate judges in a case challenging a controversial 2012 law that changed the state’s voter registration form to deliberately suppress voting rights. In striking down the registration form that the secretary supported, the superior court ruled in July that the form’s equating of legal “residency” with the right to vote is an “unreasonable description of the law” that would cause a chilling effect on voting rights.

To vote in New Hampshire under Part I, Article 11 of the state constitution, one needs to be “domiciled” here. To be “domiciled,” a voter must have “established a physical presence” in New Hampshire more than any other place, and manifest “an intent to maintain a single continuous presence” here “for domestic, social and civil purposes.”

This rigorous constitutional standard does not allow, as the secretary suggests, anyone to vote in New Hampshire simply if they are here momentarily on election day. Rather, a voter is required to reside continuously in New Hampshire and to act as if this state is home.

But to satisfy the definition of “resident” under state law, one has to both live in New Hampshire and have an intention to stay in the state “for the indefinite future.”

Put another way, “residency” is premised on one’s mental state to remain here indefinitely. But if legal “residency” was the criteria to vote, thousands of people who live in New Hampshire would be disenfranchised simply because they may have plans – perhaps years in the future – to leave the state.

These disenfranchised groups would include not only some college students who live in New Hampshire year-round, but also: a 55-year-old executive who has lived in New Hampshire his whole life but has a firm intention to retire to his Florida cottage at age 65; a Navy officer who lives in Portsmouth but knows that he will be transferred elsewhere in four years; and a hospital resident in Lebanon who plans on moving after she completes her three years of medical training. These individuals live in New Hampshire and have nowhere else to vote.

This is why “domicile” – not “residency” – is the criteria to vote under the state constitution. This is also why a New Hampshire federal court ruled in 1972 that requiring legal “residency” in order to vote is unconstitutional.

To sum up, you have the right under the state and federal constitutions to vote where you live and call home, regardless of your mental state concerning future plans.

Gardner’s claim that “drive-by” voting fraud is rampant is also wrong. The state acknowledged in the voter registration form case (with the secretary in the courtroom) that there’s no evidence to support this claim. The secretary was also unable to present any evidence of actual fraud in the case.

In his public remarks, Gardner pointed only to one anecdote concerning a woman he encountered at the polls who previously lived in Washington, but was living in New Hampshire at the time of the 2008 election.

The woman ultimately decided not to vote after the secretary insinuated that she couldn’t vote because she planned on moving back to Washington in the future. However, the secretary acknowledged in the voter registration form case that, despite his insinuation, he didn’t actually know whether she was domiciled in New Hampshire at the time.

An incident is not “voter fraud” just because the secretary says so, especially when he doesn’t know whether the potential voter is even eligible to vote.

Rather than trying to discourage potential voters, we hope the secretary encourages greater participation in our democratic process. As the U.S. Supreme Court has explained, “the right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society.”

 November 4, 2014  Tagged with:
Nov 042014
 

Criminalizing poverty is alive and well in New Hampshire.  We represent a 24-year-old man who is homeless and spent 33 days in jail simply for walking in a park.  Yes, you heard that right.

In May 2014, Jeff Pendleton was hauled off to jail for walking along a public foot path in the park adjacent to the Nashua public library.  Jeff was arrested for criminal trespass in violation of a verbal “no trespass” order he received a month earlier.  This order banned him from the library and the adjacent park, including its walkways, green space, and benches.  His bail was $100 but he did not have the money so he had to spend the next 33 days in jail.  After his release, the NHCLU secured the dismissal of the criminal charge.

Parks are protected places under the First Amendment.  They are places for the public—the poor and affluent alike—to congregate and enjoy.  Jeff had every right to be in the walkway in that park.  Moreover, the verbal “no trespass” order violated his due process rights because it denied him the opportunity to challenge the order.  The NHCLU has sought civil relief for these constitutional violations.

Using law enforcement to target the poor dehumanizes these members of our community and ostracizes them from the services they need most to get out of poverty.  New Hampshire can’t shut its eyes to poverty or sweep it out of sight.  The NHCLU will continue to fight for the constitutional rights of the poor and homeless.

 November 4, 2014  Tagged with:
Oct 312014
 

On October 31, 2014, the ACLU of NH filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three New Hampshire voters—including one member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives—challenging RSA 659:35(I) on the grounds that it violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment.  This law, which became effective on September 1, 2014, bans a person from displaying a photograph of a marked ballot reflecting “how he or she has voted,” including on the Internet through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  Now, willfully engaging in this form of political speech is a violation-level offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.  The law contains no exceptions.

RSA 659:35(I) violates the First Amendment by banning pure political speech on matters of public concern beyond the polling place (including in one’s home) that is not remotely related to the State’s purported interest in enacting the law—namely, addressing vote-buying and voter coercion.  “Political speech is essential to a functioning democracy.  The First Amendment does not allow the State to, as it is doing here, broadly ban innocent political speech with the hope that such a sweeping ban will address underlying criminal conduct,” says Gilles Bissonnette, staff attorney of the ACLU of NH.

Troublingly, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating people for engaging in political speech purportedly in violation of RSA 659:35(I) arising from the September 9, 2014 primary election.  Two of the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit—Representative Leon H. Rideout and Andrew Langlois—are currently being investigated under the law.  For example, on Mr. Langlois’ marked ballot that he later published on Facebook, he wrote the name of his recently-deceased dog “Akira” as his Republican choice for U.S. Senate.  Mr. Langlois’ vote and the publication of his ballot on social media were acts of protest against his choices for Senate—each of whom he disapproved.  Mr. Langlois’ story is depicted here.  It is clear that this posting plainly bears no relationship to vote corruption and is pure political speech that is now banned under RSA 659:35(I).

What this law ignores is that displaying a photograph of a marked ballot on the Internet is a powerful form of political speech that conveys various constitutionally-protected messages.  This form of speech can convey a sense of pride from an 18-year-old, newly-minted voter who is enthusiastic about voting in her first presidential selection.  It can convey, as it did with Plaintiff Andrew Langlois, the political message of disappointment with one’s choices of candidates.  It can convey, as it did with Plaintiffs Representative Leon H. Rideout and Brandon D. Ross who each posted photographs of their marked ballots on social media following the September 9, 2014 primary election, both protest against the law and enthusiasm in voting for oneself as a political candidate for office.  These messages lose their salience without the photograph of the marked ballot.

Voting is an act of extraordinary importance.  And it is because of this importance that the First Amendment also ensures that citizens are free to communicate their experiences at the polls, including the people for whom they voted if they so wish.  There is no more potent way to communicate one’s support for a candidate than to voluntarily display a photograph of one’s marked ballot depicting one’s vote for that candidate.  However, RSA 659:35(I) totally bans this form of political speech.  This ban is wrong and it violates the First Amendment.

UPDATE: On November 12, 2014, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the Court to prevent enforcement of the law while this lawsuit is pending.

 October 31, 2014  Tagged with: ,
Oct 312014
 

NHCLU’s Statement on New Hampshire’s Ebola Monitoring Protocols

October 29, 2014 / The following statement is from Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union (NHCLU).

Ebola is a public health issue and the government’s response should be driven by science and sound medical principles. We must treat our medical workers with compassion and respect. Medical workers deciding whether to put their lives at risk to contain this epidemic also deserve to know what to expect upon their return to the Granite State.

The Ebola “monitoring protocols” issued yesterday by Governor Maggie Hassan require greater transparency and clarification.

The Governor’s statement uses the term “monitoring protocols” not “quarantine,” but indicates that anyone caring for Ebola patients in an “Ebola-affected country” will be required to stay in their home for 21 days following their return. Public statements by New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services officials suggest that the Department will seek a court order if any individual refuses to follow the quarantine protocol, but other media coverage suggests that the home quarantine might not be mandatory.

If New Hampshire forcibly restricts individuals exhibiting no symptoms of Ebola to their home, it is a mandatory “quarantine” as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health experts—including the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine—say that such quarantines will deter genuinely sick people from seeking treatment and discourage caregivers and first responders from helping sick patients who need their assistance. Health experts assert that the best way to prevent Ebola from entering the United States is to control it at its source in Africa, and that mandatory quarantines might undermine such efforts by discouraging health workers from controlling and treating patients in Ebola stricken countries. Mandatory quarantine of people exhibiting no symptoms of Ebola also raises serious constitutional concerns.

Governor Hassan must provide clearer information to the public about the new policy, including whether the home quarantine is mandatory or voluntary and how the state came to the conclusion that the quarantine of our healthcare workers was medically necessary. Access to this information is imperative for the public to determine whether the policy is medically necessary and no more restrictive than it needs to be.

The NHCLU recognizes that when a threat to public health becomes serious enough, New Hampshire law allows certain infringements on people’s individual rights, but those infringements should be based on medical necessity, not fear or politics.

The NHCLU filed a records request today with the Office of the Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services seeking the details of policies pertaining to the new “monitoring protocols” for the Ebola virus.

 October 31, 2014