CACR 16 provides broad protection against a wider array of governmental access

Ballot Initiative 2 will read: That the first part of the constitution be amended by inserting after article 2-a the following new article: [Art.] 2-b. [Right to Privacy.] An individual’s right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential, and inherent.

Sponsors of CACR 16, as the bill to amend the state constitution is called, argue that while the New Hampshire constitution currently states that individuals have a right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure of person, property, and possessions, it does not specifically address information. They assert that in the digital age, when information is so readily available, there is a need for the constitution to name informational privacy explicitly.

CACR 16 provides broad protection against a wider array of governmental access to private and personal information outside the criminal investigation context. Supporters of the bill do not cite a particular event suggesting the need for an amendment. They are concerned about how easy it has become to access private information that could be used or misused in the future. The bill was debated vigorously in the legislature and passed each house by 1 vote beyond what was necessary to reach the 3/5 majority required to place it on the ballot.

The intent of the amendment is that it would effectively change the balancing a court already does when deciding whether the governmental interest in gaining such access outweighs the nature and degree of intrusion on an individual’s privacy interest. Specifically, it would require the government to show a compelling state interest in obtaining access to personal and private information before a court would order such access.

Supporters and opponents of the amendment agree that it is likely to produce an increase in lawsuits. Supporters contend this is a good outcome, as citizens should have access to the judicial branch’s check on the executive and legislative branches of state government. It would also make it easier for individuals to oppose intrusion on information privacy from local government entities.

Opponents foresee courts clogged by frivolous suits, including those brought by individuals for common law enforcement and civil procedures. They also argue that sponsors have not shown a need to amend the constitution, which should be done sparingly. They also see the proposal as so broad and vague, it is likely to lead to problems for law enforcement and public safety.

By law, ballot initiatives require approval of 2/3 of voters to become law. A “yes” vote on Question 2 indicates the voter wishes the constitution to be amended as described in the first paragraph. A “no” vote indicates the voter does not want this change made to the state constitution.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Residents of Nashua and the greater Nashua area who are interested in working in their local community to educate and inform the electorate on issues of local importance are encouraged to attend. Any person 16 or older, male or female, may become a League member.