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Friday, March 9, 2012

Voter ID bill clears Senate, moves to House

CONCORD – The state Senate overwhelmingly approved the requirement that voters have to show a valid photo ID at the polls.

Supporters insisted that this was the best way to prevent voter fraud in the future, while opponents said the bill was not necessary and could discourage seniors, low-income and out-of-state college students from showing up.

The Senate voted 18-5 to pass the measure, SB 289. It now moves on to the House of Representatives.

As is, this voter ID mandate would first apply at the state primary this September.

“This bill is very workable,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro. “It does not disenfranchise any voters. It does not create a single barrier. What it does do is ensure our elections are clean. As long as you are who you say you are, you will not have a problem. If not, then don’t try to vote in New Hampshire.”

Unlike other failed voter ID bills of the past, this bill permits those without an ID to vote. They would have to sign a challenged voter affidavit under penalty of perjury.

This provision helped this bill win the support of both Secretary of State Bill Gardner and the state lobby for local town and city clerks.

Sen. Jim Luther, R-Hollis, said advocates worked hard to come with a “user-friendly” measure.

“This is just good common sense, and it’s user-friendly in ways other bills have not been,” Luther said. “We’re really hopeful that we’ve finally come up with language that can work.”

Sen. Amanda Merrill, D-Durham, said up to 5 percent of voters could be disenfranchised by this mandate.

“There have been no indications of anything approaching widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire,” Merrill said. “There are approximately 50,000 residents of our state without photo identification, which is roughly the population of an entire state Senate district. This bill threatens the Constitutional right to vote for thousands of citizens without any clear evidence of a problem.”

Republican State Chairman Wayne MacDonald disagreed and noted that in the state’s presidential primary, conservative activists were able to successfully pose as deceased voters and initially obtained ballots at targeted polls in Nashua and Manchester.

“It’s absurd that so many Democrats continue to claim no problem exists,” MacDonald said. “Despite Democrats’ best efforts to preserve the status quo and the potential undermining of legitimate votes, Republicans remain committed to passing a voter ID law, which protects the integrity of our elections and ensures that voters get to exercise one of their most fundamental rights.”

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.