Is SB 3 the voting bill to watch?

Mar 03, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

Since November’s election saw the GOP retain a solid majority in both New Hampshire’s House and Senate, and snag the governor’s seat as well, pundits have been predicting that this will be the year for tightening the state’s voter registration laws.

But what, exactly, will those changes look like?

Currently, the bill receiving the lion’s share of the spotlight is SB 3, sponsored by Senate Election Law Committee chair Sen. Regina Birdsell. An extensive “replace-all” amendment to the bill was recently unveiled, meant to serve as a omnibus measure for voting rights changes in this year’s session.

The changes proposed include:

  • Individuals who have lived in the state for less than 30 days would be considered ‘temporary’—and therefore ineligible to vote—unless they can present bona fide evidence of their intent to remain in the state. Qualifying proof includes enrollment papers at a New Hampshire college or university, a home purchase or lease, drivers’ license, public school enrollment, utility bill or other government document.
  • Those registering to vote on election days who do not have proof handy can still cast their ballot, but will have less time to present evidence of domicile with their local town clerk – 10 to 30 days after the election, depending on opening hours.
  • The bill includes a provision allowing for election officials to ask for law enforcement or other municipal officials to visit a person’s listed address to verify their residence.

The bill is scheduled to receive a public hearing on Tuesday, March 7th.

All in all, the bill is as notable for what it does not do. This includes several measures promoted by other GOP legislators and included in alternative voting law measures currently being considered in the Legislature, such as:

  • HB 404, which among other provisions would eliminate same-day voter registration.
  • HB 642, implementing a thirty day residency requirement, killing same-day registration, and restricting voting in primary elections to those registered as party members before election day.
  • SB 106, implementing a thirteen day residency requirement.

HB 642 was killed in committee, but the other bills remain up for consideration.

Supporters of tightening New Hampshire’s definition of ‘domicile’ or providing additional restrictions on voting eligibility argue that it will help to prevent fraud and ensure more fair elections.

Opponents counter that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the Granite State, and express concerns that the measures could disenfranchise legitimate New Hampshire voters. 

Additionally, a handful of alternative bills seek to expand ballot access, rather than implementing restrictions:

  • HB 622, which would allow all voters to vote using absentee ballots, without having to provide a valid reason for doing so.
  • HB 348, implementing so-called “motor voting” in New Hampshire, where applications for a new license or renewal at the Department of Motor Vehicles also serves as a voter registration application.
  • SB 194, establishing an online voter registration system.

 

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