Live Free or Die
Southern New Hampshire is surely one of the most beautiful regions in America. From the mountains and miles of wilderness, to small hamlets and coastal towns, sturdy clapboard homes and white picket fences dot the sprawling landscape. The weather tends to be rugged all year round, but even during swollen, humid summers and the long winter, snow plow season, yards are festooned with seasonal ornaments. It’s clear that America’s traditional Christian holidays are observed here. No state income tax. No sales tax. The state’s motto Live Free or Die is a closely held moral imperative.
Sharing equal parts of red and blue, New Hampshire is a political hot spot during Presidential elections. In 2016, Hillary Clinton took New Hampshire by a narrow victory. President Trump told the New York Times, he would have won New Hampshire in November if not for thousands of people who he says, without any evidence, were bused in from Massachusetts and voted illegally.
We had the opportunity to talk to one of the most influential people in the town of Auburn, New Hampshire, which has a population just under 5,000.
Beth, a postal worker, known affectionately as the mail lady, is on a first-name basis with many residents and business owners. Beth knows everyone in town. She delivers their mail, which gives her special insight into the innermost workings of their lives. You might fool your friends, co-workers, or even your spouse, but there’s no fooling the mail lady. She knows when your light bill is past due.
A fierce mail warrior, Beth has been delivering mail for nearly two decades. She has been known to skillfully maneuver her ancient mail truck through the most unforgiving weather conditions. She’s avoided injury when her old-fashioned mail truck slid off an icy road and into a ditch. She sustained an injury when she was out one morning defrosting her trusty truck and took a nasty fall on the ice. Beth is our eyewitness attesting to how people vote in New Hampshire. We asked Beth if it was possible for busloads of illegal voters to swarm rural New Hampshire on election day.
“Voting is a community ritual where everyone or anyone who is important turns out to participate,” Beth said.
She described voting at the Auburn Village School, a public school that serves grades K-8. The Auburn Town Historical Society turns out for the occasion. The current community fundraiser camps out in the hallway. This year there’s a bond measure of $25M to raise money for the school’s renovation. Advocates for the measure, and those opposed, are there campaigning for support.
Three Selectmen from the Auburn Government are also there. The Board of Selectmen derive their authority from the New Hampshire Legislature, and are individually elected to office for staggered, three-year terms. The Town Moderator is also present to make sure all laws are abided. The local police staff the lobby. Tables marked by alphabetical order and staffed by volunteers, including brigades of white-haired old ladies and gentleman, who guard the gateway to the ballot booths. Every person who enters is asked for ID and his name is checked against a print list of citizens who’ve registered to vote.
As much as Beth knows everyone and everyone knows her, even she is required to produce her driver’s license by a town elder who checks off her name on the list.
The Ballot booths are unremarkable. Black felt markers are tied down so no one can walk off with one. Once the a ballot is complete, the voter brings it over to a volunteer who immediately inserts it into a ballot-reading machine.
“Everyone and every detail is scrutinized,” Beth said. “Even though same-day voter registration is permitted in New Hampshire, the white haired old ladies who staff the tables would look askance. Same-day voter registration for busloads of people would not happen. It’s that simple.”
The voting process is no different for any small town in New Hampshire. Amid the bake sales, free cookies and beverages, if a busload of illegal voters from Boston showed up for same-day voter registration, it would create a spectacle that got some eye-popping, jaw-dropping attention.
We asked Beth if she’d ever like to run for office as a Selectman. She said she had not lived there long enough. “I’ve only lived here for 30 years,” she said.