Checklist supervisor is Amherst’s only contested race and, rightly or wrongly, centers on state voter ID law

AMHERST – After six years of working as Amherst’s supervisor of the checklist, Jeanne Ludt will no longer hold that position after challenger Carol Holden ousted her on Tuesday, March 11.

The unofficial voting results from Town Meeting show Holden, former state representative and former county commissioner, garnering 1,073 votes to Ludt’s 961.

The job requires painstaking attention to detail, and even Ludt, who has enjoyed the job for one six-year term, admits that most people would find it dull.

Yet, the position of supervisor of the checklist was a hot race this year, the only contested race in Amherst and one of only a few contested races in the area.

Ludt, the incumbent, was challenged by Holden for a six-year term.

In a phone interview Monday, March 10, Holden said she ran for the position because she thinks there should be a contest, and because she does not think Ludt is interested in enforcing the state Voter ID law.

“I think there is not enough enforcement of the law,” Holden said. “You have to have some kind of ID to get on a plane, a train or a bus … and I think Jeanne Ludt doesn’t really think that’s important.”

Ludt calls that criticism “completely false,” and said Holden must not understand what the job entails.

“I enforce all the laws the state mandates,” she said. “When we register someone to vote, it’s part of the process to ask for a photo ID” and always has been part of the process.

Checklist supervisors’ duties have not changed since the law was enacted, Ludt said. It is the ballot officials who have to comply with the new law by asking for photo IDs, and “I have nothing to do with that.”

The misunderstanding, she said, probably came from a statement she made at a recent Amherst candidates’ forum. Ludt said she thought photo IDs aren’t necessary because impersonation of voters is extremely rare, happening once in every 15 million votes.

Interviewed during a break from her duties at the Amherst polling place on Tuesday, Ludt said the opposition to her position is puzzling and seemed to be politically motivated.

“This job is completely non-partisan,” she said. “We register people to vote and maintain the checklist before and after voting, using the database.”

Over the six years she has held the position, Ludt said, she has built up skills and knowledge and attended a mandatory two-day training course in Concord.

“I’d like to share that,” she said, rather than see someone else “start from scratch. It’s not as simple as it looks.”

Holden supporter Mark Vincent wrote a letter to The Cabinet saying Holden “knows election law inside and out and had a hand in drafting those laws when she was a state representative” and she “will ensure the rules and regulations are applied correctly and fairly.”

Ludt’s supporters, including the other two checklist supervisors, praised her in letters as conscientious, hard-working and “technically talented.”

The controversial Voter ID law went into effect in 2012 and requires all voters to show identification or fill out an affidavit before getting a ballot.

Under a compromise worked out in 2013 by negotiators from the House and Senate, student IDs will remain valid forms of identification at the polls, and voters 65 and over will be able to use expired driver’s licenses to vote.

Also, the photo-taking requirement that had been part of the original law will be delayed until 2015.

In January, a Milford man agreed to pay a $1,000 penalty for voting twice in the 2012 general election.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said Adam Kumpu agreed to pay the penalty to resolve a matter involving wrongful voting violations. His mother, Janine Kumpo, also of Milford, agreed to pay an additional $250 penalty for helping her son obtain an absentee ballot.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.