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Monday, November 28, 2016

Republicans looking to tighten New Hampshire election laws

By KATHLEEN RONAYN

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The state could see a handful of election law changes now that Republicans are in charge at the State House even though there's no evidence behind Republican President-elect Donald Trump's recent claim of "serious" voter fraud.

Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu wants to eliminate Election Day registration, while fellow Republicans in the legislature have long sought a 10- or 30-day residency requirement. They say the changes would give voters more confidence in the state's election systems. ...

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The state could see a handful of election law changes now that Republicans are in charge at the State House even though there's no evidence behind Republican President-elect Donald Trump's recent claim of "serious" voter fraud.

Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu wants to eliminate Election Day registration, while fellow Republicans in the legislature have long sought a 10- or 30-day residency requirement. They say the changes would give voters more confidence in the state's election systems.

"It's simply about doing things the right way," Sununu recently told WMUR-TV.

The offices of the attorney general and the secretary of state say there aren't enough complaints to back up any assertions of wide-scale voter fraud. Trump tweeted on Sunday that the media are ignoring "serious fraud" in New Hampshire, Virginia and California but provided no evidence for his claims.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano, who handles the state's election law complaints, said he's looking into fewer than five complaints concerning voter fraud. He couldn't provide how many complaints he's received. The attorney general's office has a backlog of election law complaints due to low staffing, but most aren't related to voter fraud. Since 2012, the office has prosecuted two criminal and one civil voter fraud cases, Buonamano said.

"As an empirical matter, we don't have the kinds of reports of voter fraud that appear to be discussed by President-elect Trump," Buonamano said.

Sununu also disputed Trump's characterization.

"No evidence of voter fraud in this past election has been brought to my attention," he said in a statement.

But he and other state Republicans say the state's laws could be tighter.

New Hampshire allows people to vote if they consider the state their "domicile," rather than their "residence." That means college students or campaign workers can vote in New Hampshire even if they hold driver's licenses from other states.

Sununu told WMUR he wants people to feel confident their votes aren't "being diluted or abused by folks who aren't either real residents or whatever the case may be."

The Legislature has passed residency requirements in recent sessions, only to have them vetoed by outgoing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. With Sununu in charge, one is likely to be signed into law. Under such a law, college students would likely still be able to vote if they could prove residency, perhaps by obtaining driver's licenses. Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who has expressed his own concerns about "drive-by voting," supports such a law.

But eliminating same-day registration may be more complicated. New Hampshire passed the law in 1994, allowing the state to get out of some requirements of the National Voter Registration Act. The law, also known as the Motor Voter Act, says states must allow for registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other public places. By having same-day registration, New Hampshire avoids those requirements. Election Day registration also gets New Hampshire out of parts of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Although Gardner supports some election law changes, he has argued eliminating same-day registration would be costly and create new problems.