Lawyer: Dracut Man Who Voted in 2 States Was Victim of Politics
By Robert Mills
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CONCORD, N.H. -- A 21-year-old Dracut man who pleaded guilty to making a false statement as he registered to vote in Durham, N.H., in 2016, even though he had already voted in Dracut, is an honors student who was caught up in a political battle between liberal New Hampshire voting officials and a conservative attorney general, according to his attorney.
Spencer McKinnon pleaded guilty Thursday in Strafford County Superior Court to providing a false statement on a voter-registration form -- a Class A misdemeanor, according to a press release from Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.
“This kid became a political football between the Republican attorney general of New Hampshire and the liberal voter registration officials in the town of Durham, New Hampshire,” said McKinnon’s attorney, Scott Bratton of Lowell.
McKinnon completed and submitted an absentee ballot to the town of Dracut, his hometown, on Oct. 24, 2016. Two days later, he signed and submitted a voter-registration form in Durham, N.H., that contained an affidavit he signed stating that he was “not domiciled or voting in any other state or any other city/town,” according to the Attorney General’s Office.
His Dracut form also contained a signed affidavit stating that he was eligible to vote in Massachusetts and that his hometown was Dracut, according to MacDonald.
Bratton said McKinnon was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of New Hampshire when he voted in the presidential election and for federal offices via an absentee ballot in his hometown of Dracut.
Days later, voter registration officials from Durham visited the UNH campus and told McKinnon it would be OK for him to register in Durham as long as he changed his address.
“He, along with many other students, registered to vote in New Hampshire,” Bratton said. “But what’s missing from the AG’s account is that when he went to vote in New Hampshire in person, he got the ballot and realized it would be wrong for him to vote twice for president or twice for congressional seats, so he didn’t do that. He voted for selectmen and dog catcher in New Hampshire. He never voted twice for the same office in both states.”
McKinnon was initially charged with a felony count of knowingly voting in more than one state during the 2016 election, and faced 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison. Bratton said the felony charge McKinnon initially faced would have ruined his life and career.
After pleading guilty to the misdemeanor count on Thursday, McKinnon was sentenced to six months in a house of correction, but the sentence was suspended for a year on the condition that McKinnon complete 200 hours of community service and pay a $2,000 fine. He also lost his right to vote in New Hampshire.
McKinnon’s conviction was the first to come from the Interstate Voter Crosscheck Program investigations after the 2016 election, according to MacDonald, who said three other people have also been charged as a result of the program.
Bratton was critical of both the voter registration officials who he said misleadingly told McKinnon registering in Durham would be OK, and of the attorney general’s office, which charged him with a felony and sent out a press release when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
“I think the attorney general of New Hampshire is serving his own political interest in publishing this story the way he did without all the facts,” Bratton said.
The Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to Bratton’s comments Friday night.
Bratton said McKinnon is now a junior studying civil engineering who has maintained honors-level grades and who volunteers and participates in intramural activities.
“He’s a real good kid. He didn’t deserve to be treated this way, and neither did his family,” Bratton said.