Donald Trump’s New Hampshire voting guide blurs line between registering to vote and voting

It’s Election Day in New Hampshire! And Donald J. Trump has a message for all of his potential New Hampshire voters: Vote! For serious this time! Not like those idiots in Iowa who only said they were voting for him but then totally didn’t show up.

Vote New HampshireA message to the great people of New Hampshire on this important day: Thank you for all of your hospitality and support. I need you to go out and vote today! Together we will #MakeAmericaGreatAgain!

Posted by Donald J. Trump on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Donald Trump’s get out the vote operation appears to be mostly social-media based. His campaign’s ground game has struggled to play catch-up since a positively dismal performance in Iowa, and it doesn’t seem to have improved by much. This being the case, Trump has taken to Facebook and Twitter to encourage his New Hampshire supporters — all of whom presumably follow him on the social networks — to get out and vote.

But there’s a problem with this strategy: Namely, the information Trump’s campaign is supplying to New Hampshire voters today is misleading at best and incorrect at worst. When you follow the link in the above tweet to Trump’s website, it takes you to a page with a hastily-written list of requirements for how to vote in New Hampshire’s primary. And when I say hastily-written, I mean the parts that aren’t copied and pasted from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office are either confusing or simply wrong.

Here’s what it says, under “REQUIREMENTS TO VOTE FOR TRUMP”:

Donald Trump, screenshot via YouTube

Donald Trump, screenshot via YouTube

New Hampshire residents who will be 18 years of age or older on the day of the next election, and a United States Citizen, you may register on election day at your polling place. Contact your town or city clerk for information on registering to vote on the day of the election.

There is no minimum period of time you are required to have lived in the state before being allowed to register. You may register as soon as you move into your new community.

Qualified individuals may also register to vote at the polling place on election day at all elections. You will be asked to show proof of age, citizenship and domicile (Utility Bill with your current address).

Quick Points:

  • 1) Locate your correct voting location.
  • 2) Be 18 years of age or older on election day and a United States Citizen resident.
  • 3) Provide a Photo ID and a Utility bill with your current address.

Trump has a few big problems here: First, most of these “requirements to vote for Trump” are actually requirements to register to vote — a distinction that his campaign should have understood given that they copied the information from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Frequently Asked Questions page for voter registration. What’s more, Trump’s campaign failed to update their page for Election Day. So while New Hampshire has election day registration for all of its citizens, Trump’s second mention of it, specifically limiting it to “qualified individuals,” makes it seem like it might not apply to everyone — even though his first paragraph says that it does. Finally, and perhaps more importantly, the requirements for registering to vote aren’t the same as the requirements to vote for Trump. By lumping the two together, Trump has made voting seem more difficult than it actually is.

Case in point: It’s telling that Trump’s site only makes one reference to the one major change to New Hampshire’s election law since its citizens last went to the polls: voter ID. The 2016 election will be New Hampshire’s first since the state fully implemented its law asking all voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. Those who don’t have a photo ID with them can still cast a regular ballot by signing an affidavit, but only if they let poll workers take their picture. Trump’s voter guide makes no mention of this. Furthermore, the one reference Trump does make to the photo ID law comes in the “Quick Points” box on the page, and lumps the photo ID requirement in with the utility bill, a proof of domicile that voters don’t have to bring with them if they’re already registered to vote.

To be clear, by blurring the distinction between voter registration and voting, Trump is erring on the side of caution. Telling supporters to bring a photo ID and a utility bill when they only need the former can’t hurt, right? There’s no such thing as being too prepared?

Not quite. Trump’s voter guide makes voting in the New Hampshire primary seem more difficult than it actually is. That can only mean that, on balance, registered voters who read Trump’s voter guide are going to come away less likely to vote than they otherwise would be. And when you tell voters that voting is harder than it actually is, they are less likely to vote.

Looks like Trump’s campaign’s still got quite a bit of catching up to do.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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