New Hampshire On The Verge Of Imposing Tougher Voter Registration Rules

Critics say legitimate voters may not have the necessary proof of a "domicile" in the state.

New Hampshire is poised to enact a law that will require voters who register on election day to provide documentation that they intend to stay in the state, a measure critics say will add unnecessary confusion and discourage eligible voters from casting a ballot.

The bill requires those who register to vote on election day or within 30 days of it to provide proof they intend to maintain a “domicile” in the state. New Hampshire defines a domicile as “one place where a person, more than any other place, has established a physical presence and manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence for domestic, social, and civil purposes relevant to participating in democratic self-government.” A person in the state, such as a college student, cannot be blocked from voting simply because they intend to change their domicile at some future point.

But under the new measure, if a person fails to provide proof of a domicile, state officials are authorized to take steps to verify residency. A different version of the bill authorized police to verify the residency of voters, but the bill’s sponsor said she removed the provision. A newer version of the bill does say, however, that officials can send two or more people “to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled there on election day.”

The New Hampshire House passed a version of the bill, 191 to 162, on Thursday. It will now head back to the state Senate to reconcile changes with a version it passed in March. A spokesman for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu told HuffPost the governor intends to sign the bill.

In a statement, the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights urged Sununu to reconsider. Voters who moved to New Hampshire within 30 days of an election would be unable to vote if they had yet to enter a formal lease or buy a home, or if they could not provide any other documentation of intent to stay in the state, the coalition said. Democrats have also noted the new legislation is unnecessarily complicated.

The statement noted that individuals who knowingly failed to provide evidence of their domicile within 10 days of an election could face a fine of up to $5,000. 

“Senate Bill 3 accomplishes one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here,” Eli Tyrrel-Walker, a University of New Hampshire student and member of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump said that voters had been bused into New Hampshire to vote illegally in the presidential election, but state election officials have said that’s not true and that widespread voter fraud isn’t a problem in New Hampshire. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is one of two Democrats who have agreed to serve on a commission convened by Trump to investigate voter fraud nationally.

Voting advocates noted they pushed hard against the measure in New Hampshire. They placed over 1,000 calls and sent over 1,000 postcards to state representatives, packed hearings on the bill and called hundreds of election administrators across the state to explain how the bill would affect them. Let America Vote, a national group let by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander that targets politicians who push voting restrictions, paid for digital advertising against the measure, including a Snapchat filter.

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said voters would be blocked from voting simply for not having the right paperwork.

“People shouldn’t be fined for exercising their right to vote and doing nothing wrong other than not returning to a government agency with certain paperwork — paperwork that these legitimate voters may not have,” he said. “SB 3 is also a violation of voters’ privacy by sending government agents to voters’ homes to check their documents. Requiring people to accept this government intrusion as a condition of voting will chill the right to vote.”



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