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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Advocates try to kill Voter ID bill before it’s fully implemented

CONCORD – Advocacy groups for voters, seniors and civil libertarians joined a legislative effort to strike down the law that starting this fall will require voters to show a state-approved, photo ID card at the polls.

Joan Ashwell, with the League of Women Voters, conceded the difficulty of getting lawmakers to junk a law such as this one before it’s fully implemented. ...

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CONCORD – Advocacy groups for voters, seniors and civil libertarians joined a legislative effort to strike down the law that starting this fall will require voters to show a state-approved, photo ID card at the polls.

Joan Ashwell, with the League of Women Voters, conceded the difficulty of getting lawmakers to junk a law such as this one before it’s fully implemented.

“We understand the reluctance of one Legislature to repeal a law just passed by a different Legislature,” Ashwell told the House Election Laws Committee. “In this case, we aren’t talking about a simple bill like naming a bridge or funding one amount of money in the budget or another. The voter ID threatens the most precious right of our citizens, the right to vote.”

But Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, said the 2012 presidential primary revealed a weakness in the system when a conservative blogger had volunteers pose at the polls as dead people in Nashua and Manchester and were given ballots.

“Voter fraud has been documented,” Sanborn said, speaking for the House GOP leadership team. “We had a glaring hole in our election law, which we tried to address with our voter ID law.”

Last spring, the Republican-led Legislature overturned the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch, making New Hampshire the 31st state to require some form of identification be shown at the polls. The law allowed voting by residents who didn’t have an ID at the polls last November but the voters had to sign an affidavit to assert that their name and claimed address were legitimate.

In the future, however, the law restricts what forms of ID are acceptable, and among those ruled invalid are student picture cards from college campuses.

In every state or local election after this September, voters without an ID also will have their picture taken, which will be attached to the affidavit. Anyone with a religious objection can obtain an exemption from the picture requirement. The digital photo is to be destroyed after it’s taken, but the paper copy will stay with the voter’s file.

Rep. Timothy Horrigan, D-
Durham, sponsored the bill to repeal the law outright and conceded last November’s elections with the new law went off without any significant hitches.

“The first phase did not cause some of the problems that we feared,” Horrigan said.

Devon Chaffee executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, said some potential voters, particularly those who are elderly, the disabled or low-income citizens were still intimidated from voting.

“We don’t know how many voters may have stayed home or be chilled from the requirements,” Chaffee said. “What we do know is there was real confusion over the law.”

Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, said he disagreed with that premise, pointing out that a record number of voters showed up, including 100,000 who registered to vote on Election Day, also a record.

“It seems counterintuitive to me to say voters were intimidated by voter ID yet we had near a record-high turnout,” Jasper said.

The same House committee will take testimony next Tuesday on a separate bill, HB 595, that would retain the voter ID provisions that were in place for this past election but repeal the new standards.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).