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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Voter ID bill gets OK from Senate committee

CONCORD – Over the opposition of voter reform groups, a state Senate committee on Tuesday embraced legislation requiring voters to show a picture ID at the polls.

Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, said he worked hard on his proposal, SB 289, to secure the support of Secretary of State Bill Gardner and the New Hampshire Town and Clerks Association.

“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to make this workable,” Prescott said after the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee voted, 4-1, to support the bill.

Critics ranging from the League of Women Voters and the Civil Liberties Union to the state chapter of the Public Interest Research Group maintained that the requirement is unnecessary and will discourage some people from voting.

“New Hampshire PIRG has long supported and engaged in efforts that make it easier for eligible voters to register and cast their ballots, including extending voting hours and voting on weekends,” said Addie Shankle, spokeswoman for NH PIRG.

“We’re seeing legislation develop in both the House and Senate that moves in the opposite direction from that, and it is deeply concerning.”

The bill would give local and state election workers until the 2016 election to prepare. Those who did not have an ID at the polls would still be allowed to vote and would have to fill out an affidavit attesting to their identity under penalty of perjury.

Anyone who wanted to obtain a voter-only ID card from the state could apply to have the state pick up the cost for one.

“We are supportive of this amended form because it allows everyone to vote and to have their ballots count,” Gardner said.

The voter ID issue had appeared to be dead at the end of the 2011 session but Prescott’s attempt to reach common ground revived it.

House and Senate leaders agreed on differing versions of legislation they had separately adopted, but for the third time since 2003, Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill.

With two Senate Republicans breaking ranks and backing Lynch’s position, the Senate failed to override the veto.

The sticking point had been the insistence from House leaders that those without the proper papers be designated as ‘’provisional’’ voters whose ballots would not be counted unless they showed back up at city or town hall with proof of their identity.

Prescott’s amended bill eliminates that provision.

The push for requiring IDs was also bolstered by the conservative group Project Veritas, which went to polls in Nashua and Manchester during the New Hampshire primary posing as recently deceased voters.

Video of the would-be voters being offered ballots drew national media attention.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.