House Kills Citizenship Documentation Requirement for Voting

Print More


Rep. Connie Lane, D-Concord, speaks in opposition to House Bill 1370 Thursday on the House floor.


CONCORD – A bill that would set up a new approach to voters who show up at the polls without documentation to prove citizenship was effectively killed by the House Thursday after the Senate passed it along party lines 14-10.

Gov. Chris Sununu had said he has questions about the bill and implementation in time for the September primary, but he neither committed to nor voiced opposition to House Bill 1370.

But the House made the decision for him, when it voted 223-141 to table the bill on the last to act on legislation this year, citing constitutional questions, the number of potentially disenfranchised voters and losing the state’s exemption to the federal motor voter law.

Currently, voters without that information can vote if they sign an affidavit and must come up with the information within the week for their vote to count.

Rep. Connie Lane, D-Concord, said, “If this is adopted, New Hampshire will be the only state in the nation to have this requirement.”

She said a similar law in Kansas was found unconstitutional after about 50 percent of those affected were denied the right to vote.

Land said not long ago, the state spent $5 million to unsuccessfully defend a bill that limited voters’ rights, and House Bill 1370 faces the same fate.

The bill would also put the state’s exemption to the Motor Voter law at risk, its election-day voter registration provision, Lane said, and neither the bill’s sponsor nor the Secretary of State spoke to the US Department of Justice about the exception.

The state will have to spend millions of dollars to comply with the motor-voter law in a short period of time, she said, and once you lose the exemption, you cannot get it back.

Lane listed the election officials and groups opposed to the bill.

But Rep. James Qualey, R-Rindge, said the bill would address the potential for unqualified voters to cast a ballot in a New Hampshire election. While the state has an obligation to ensure everyone qualified is able to vote, it also has an obligation to ensure unqualified voters do not vote, as that taints the entire system, he said.

The House voted 223-141 to table the bill, effectively killing it on the last day to pass legislation.

In the Senate, Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, argued HB 1370 would allow election officials to access citizenship information on election day, noting there are databases that can be verified within minutes. 

It would create a state hotline with various unnamed state databases to verify a person’s qualification to vote.

It would allow voter information to be accessible through information from various state agencies including motor vehicles.

Town and city clerks argue it will be hard to implement in time for the September primary and there are voting precincts with no cell service, which would be required to access the hotline.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, opposed the bill. He asked why “when we have no problem we search for a problem.” He said he thought the name of the game was to encourage voting.

He said it used to be that you could only vote if you owned property, then it was required you bring your passport and birth certificate.

New Hampshire had the most voter restrictions in the country years ago, he said, asking why should the state go back to that.

Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth, said there is no need for this and it could disenfranchise voters.

But Gray noted there have been numerous elections in the state won by a single vote.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said we have an exemption from motor voter registration because we have same-day registration. So in a presidential election year in November, she could envision long lines because some folks are having issues with the internet.

“It’s a lot. It’s a lot to expect,” she said and it’s going to lead to a lot of difficult situations for city and town clerks.  

The bill also calls for use of a provisional ballot of sorts, which will be set aside and hand counted. In small communities where there may be one or two such ballots people are going to know how they voted, limiting privacy.  

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said he thought the bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat. He said there are measures in other jurisdictions considering giving non-citizens the right to vote and that should not be allowed in New Hampshire.

He noted Secretary of State Dave Scanlan has said the bill can be implemented.

“So while September is coming fairly soon, I believe in the confidence of the Secretary of State…we are going to be able to get this done.”

And he said that would give confidence to voters that those who are eligible were able to vote.

The House also voted down House Bill 1369, which would have the Secretary of State purge the voting lists every six instead of the current 10-year cycle, after several representatives said it would also disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.

The bill was tabled on a 178-173 vote, effectively killing it on the last day to pass legislation.

Comments are closed.