New Hampshire House votes to reverse voter registration laws
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire House voted Thursday to reverse two new voter registration laws, even though neither has fully taken effect and both are being challenged in court.
One of the laws requires additional documentation from voters who register within 30 days of an election. Supporters argue it will increase trust in elections by requiring people to prove they live where they vote, but opponents argue it is confusing, unnecessary and intimidating. A judge allowed the law to take effect but blocked penalties of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for fraud while the court challenge is pending.
A more recent law change ending the state’s distinction between domicile and residency for voting purposes doesn’t take effect until July. For now, out-of-state college students and others who consider the state their domicile can vote without being subject to residency requirements, such as getting a New Hampshire driver’s license or registering their cars.
Both were enacted by Republican Legislatures, but Democrats who now hold majorities want to restore the previous rules. The House passed a pair of bills to do that on Thursday, over the objections of opponents who said doing so was inappropriate given the pending lawsuits.
“This turns a voting issue into a political football,” Rep. Timothy Lang, R-Gilford, said during the debate on the voter registration bill. “There’s currently a case pending before the courts that will define this issue for us. … But we’re just going to keep going back and forth playing pingpong with it.”
Both bills now head to the Senate, along with another bill that would allow “no-excuse” absentee voting. Currently, absentee ballots are available only to certain voters, including those with physical disabilities and those who are out of town on Election Day.
And starting this year, if the National Weather Service issues a winter storm, blizzard or ice storm warning for Election Day, voters worried about safe travel or who can’t vote because schools or adult care are canceled can vote absentee only on the Monday before the election. Lawmakers added that provision last year after snowstorms hit on March town election days two years in row.
The House rejected a bill, however, to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they would turn 18 before the general election. It also voted down a bill to require presidential primary candidates to release their federal tax returns for the previous five years.