New Hampshire Democrats are suing the state to block a new law tightening residency requirements for those who register to vote on election day, saying that it will cause confusion and will make it more difficult for young, poor and minority residents to vote.
The measure, signed into law in July, requires people to prove they intend to make a permanent residency in the state, but outlines different registration procedures for people who register on election day.
Before the new law, called SB3, people who registered to vote could sign an affidavit swearing under penalty of perjury, that they had a residency in New Hampshire. But now under SB3, they can no longer do so, and must present documentation, like a lease, utility bill or state ID, to register.
The suit, brought forward on Tuesday, accuses the law of violating the New Hampshire Constitution as well as the First, Fourteenth and Twenty-Sixth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Critics say the legislation is unnecessary because there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire and the additional paperwork will make it more difficult for people to register, especially young voters and marginalized populations. The plaintiffs say that young, poor and minority voters are more likely to register close to or on election day and that the new restrictions are more likely to impact these groups.
“SB 3 imposes several brand new, highly confusing, unnecessary, and intimidating hurdles to voting. It will not only burden, and in some cases, disenfranchise eligible, lawful New Hampshire citizens, but will expose countless innocent voters to criminal and civil liability,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote. “Not for casting a ballot that they were ineligible to cast for otherwise committing ‘voter fraud’ as that term is typically understood, but simply for failing to understand or comply with confusing and burdensome paperwork requirements.”
It will not only burden, and in some cases, disenfranchise eligible, lawful New Hampshire citizens, but will expose countless innocent voters to criminal and civil liability.
Under the SB3, if someone registers on election day, they can register without proof, but they have to choose whether they want to submit those documents within short 10-day timeframe or authorize election officials to investigate their residency. If a voter chooses to produce the documents themselves, but fails to do so by the deadline, election officials can investigate them for fraud, potentially opening them up to civil and criminal penalties.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D), a defendant in the suit, agrees that voter fraud isn’t a problem, but supports the new law because he says it’s necessary to combat the perception elections aren’t secure.
“[SB3], like any statute, is presumed to be constitutional, the Department of Justice will defend it vigorously, and we are confident it will be sustained,” Gardner said in a statement.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) also dismissed the lawsuit.
“This is nothing more than political theatrics. We are confident the law will be upheld,” Sununu said in a statement.
The New Hampshire measure was passed after President Donald Trump claimed repeatedly that thousands were bused into New Hampshire to vote on election day, a claim that has never been proven and that even Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, questioned. Sununu made a similar claim last year.
Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 2,732 votes in the state during last year’s presidential election.
Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic party, accused Republicans of stoking fears of voter fraud, despite little evidence it exists, to justify restricting access to the franchise.
“This is the latest in a long line of voter suppression efforts the Republican Party has engaged in around the country,” Buckley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the myth of voter fraud has been spread by Republican leaders at every level, from President Trump to Governor Sununu and within the New Hampshire legislature, as a false pretext for restricting access to voting.”