By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – A coalition of opponents of the so-called “provisional ballot” bill held a press conference on Monday urging the governor to veto the legislation.
Gov. Chris Sununu has said in the past he has “hesitation” about signing the bill, arguing that the voter laws are currently sound.
But he stopped short of vowing to veto the bill when he met earlier this spring with reporters.
Senate Bill 418 https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=2108&inflect=2 relative to voter affidavits, was sponsored by state Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren. It passed the House by a 180-154 margin and in the Senate 13-11, not enough to overturn a possible veto if the votes were the same.
Also known as the “affidavit ballot” bill, it states that a person who registers to vote on election day without photo identification would receive an affidavit ballot — much like a provisional ballot in other states — and will be given an overnight mailer to send to the Secretary of State’s Office with the required documentation to prove the person’s identity within 10 days.
If the information is not received within the timeframe, the vote would be deducted from the total announced on election night.
The affidavit ballot would be placed in a container on the side of the voting machine and would be counted separately. When the moderator announced the vote total at the end of tabulation, he or she would also announce the number of affidavit ballots cast.
Supporters call it important to election verification and opponents said it is unnecessary and could disenfranchise voters and even identify how some voted.
The sponsor and several other supporters said it attempts to improve the sanctity of elections and to improve confidence in fair and accurate results.
Secretary of State David Scanlan told the Election Law Committee he generally supports the bill but suggested they put the bill on the table and then ask the state Supreme Court for an opinion of its constitutionality.
Rep. Russell Muirhead, D-Hanover, said the bill is an expensive and complicated solution to a problem that does not exist and he noted that the governor has said that the elections are secure, accurate, and reliable here and there is no question about it.
He said the bill would make two classes of voters and ultimately could be found unconstitutional.
Those gathered Monday to ask Sununu to veto the bill included Molly Lunn Owen, executive director of 603 Forward; Ed Friedrich, a Marine Corps veteran, and grandfather of an active duty member of the U.S. Navy; Dan Healey, Derry Town Clerk, who is also the Second Vice President of the New Hampshire City and Town Clerk’s Association; and American Civil Liberties Union-NH Senior Staff Attorney Henry Klementowicz.
They spoke near the statue of Commodore Perkins outside the State House.
The organization 603 Forward is working to ensure that young people and families and their votes are represented across the Granite State.
Owen is also a military spouse. Her husband returned from 11 months of overseas service with the Navy this spring. She said while he was serving his country away from his family, lawmakers were working this spring to complicate his rights to vote with the passage of SB 418.
Friedrich is a retired First Lieutenant with the United States Marine Corps who served during the Vietnam War.
He said his grandson, from Weare, is already under a tight deadline for voting and this would create an even harder timeline. He said he would not forgive himself if he did nothing to oppose this legislation and called on the governor to intervene.
Healey said his clerk’s association is opposed to the bill that he said would complicate the voting process and cure a problem that does not exist.
He said it would create two classes of voters.
Healey noted the overwhelming opposition to the legislation and noted voter fraud is not a huge problem in the state.
Klementowicz also spoke. His work focuses on litigation and statehouse advocacy in support of civil rights and civil liberties, particularly in the areas of voting rights, governmental records, due process, and freedom of speech.
The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights organized the press conference.
It is a coalition of state and national advocacy organizations, voters, attorneys, and watchdog organizations working to ensure and preserve the right to vote for every Granite Stater, and is a project of America Votes New Hampshire.