ACLU-NH, Fair Elections Center Challenge Controversial Voting Bill HB 1264

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CONCORD, NH – Today, the ACLU of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH) and the Fair Elections Center filed a joint memorandum before the New Hampshire Supreme Court arguing that HB 1264 is both unripe for judicial review and unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the ACLU-NH and the Center filing this brief are Gilles Bissonnette, the ACLU-NH’s Legal Director, and William Christie and S. Amy Spencer of the law firm Shaheen & Gordon, P.A.

As explained in the brief, HB 1264 is not ripe for judicial review because courts can only adequately review constitutional questions concerning voting laws with the benefit of a full factual record developed through adversarial litigation.

However, if the Court chooses to opine on HB 1264, the brief makes clear that this bill is unconstitutional.  As the brief explains, HB 1264 discriminates against and imposes onerous motor vehicle fees on voters who live in New Hampshire, but who know that they will be leaving the state at some unknown point in the future.  As the bill’s legislative history makes clear, this bill is specifically targeted at deterring college students—who are constitutionally entitled to vote in New Hampshire—from exercising their right to vote here.

“Since the 2016 general election, many of HB 1264’s proponents have made clear their view that college students do not have sufficient ‘skin in the game’ or a ‘long-term vested interest’ in New Hampshire to vote here,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “This view is not only wrong, but it flies in the face of repeated court decisions explaining that college students have the right to vote in the state in which they live and attend school.  History is replete with unfortunate examples of legislatures unconstitutionally restricting the voting rights of populations they deem unworthy.  HB 1264 is just the latest example.”

“In passing HB 1264, the New Hampshire legislature and Secretary of State’s Office have made clear that their intent is to impose motor vehicle residency fees on these voters who choose to exercise their right to vote in New Hampshire,” said Bissonnette.  “As documented in our brief, the Secretary of State’s Office explained this intent to the House of Representatives Election Law Committee in January, and Senator Regina Birdsell—Chairwoman of the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee—explained this intent in a media interview last December.  The imposition of fees on voters simply because they decide to register to vote in New Hampshire is the very definition of a poll tax.  If the Court reaches the constitutionality of HB 1264, we ask that the Court declare it unconstitutional.”

“HB 1264 is a cynical attempt to prevent people who live and work in the state and support the local economy from voting in New Hampshire,” said Michelle Kanter Cohen, Counsel at Fair Elections Center. “We are proud to be fighting against this bill, because college students and other community members who live and work in New Hampshire must not be prevented from having their voices heard.”

The press release is here:

The brief can also be found here:

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