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Sumner v. New Hampshire Secy. of State

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

March 22, 2016

Deborah Sumner
v.
New Hampshire Secretary of State

         Submitted January 7, 2016

Page 102

          Cheshire.

          Affirmed.

         Deborah Sumner, self-represented party, by brief.

          Joseph A. Foster, attorney general ( Stephen G. LaBonte, assistant attorney general, on the brief), for the defendant.

          OPINION

Page 103

          Hicks, J.

          The plaintiff, Deborah Sumner, appeals an order of the Superior Court ( Kissinger, J.) upholding the denial, by the defendant, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, of her Right-to-Know Law request, and granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Sumner sought to inspect ballots cast in the town of Jaffrey during the 2012 general election. The defendant denied her request, citing RSA 659:95, II (Supp. 2015), which exempts ballots which have been cast from the Right-to-Know Law. On appeal, Sumner argues that RSA 659:95, II, along with RSA 660:16, II (2008) and RSA 669:33, II (2008) (collectively, " the ballot exemption statutes" ), violate several articles of the New Hampshire Constitution. We hold that the ballot exemption statutes do not violate our State constitution, and, therefore, we affirm.

         The record supports the following facts. Sumner asked to inspect the Jaffrey ballots " [t]o determine why 71 ballots ... contained over votes, therefore invaliding votes of 71 individuals," and to research " how ... ballots can be traced to a voter." When the defendant denied her request, Sumner sued in superior court, requesting, among other things, an order allowing her to review the Jaffrey ballots and a declaratory judgment that the ballot exemption statutes are unconstitutional. She then moved separately for permission " to review [the] ballots as outlined in her complaint," which the trial court denied. The defendant moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. This appeal followed.

          " When reviewing a trial court's grant of summary judgment, we consider the affidavits and other evidence, and inferences properly drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Sabinson v. Trustees of Dartmouth

Page 104

College, 160 N.H. 452, 455, 999 A.2d 380 (2010). " If this review does not reveal any genuine issues of material fact, i.e., facts that would affect the outcome of the litigation, and if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we will affirm." Id.

         Sumner first argues that the ballot exemption statutes violate Part I, Articles 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution. We read Sumner's brief to focus primarily upon Part I, Article 8, which states that " the public's right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted." N.H. Const. pt. I, art. 8. According to Sumner, " there is no legitimate privacy reason to exempt ballots from public ...


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