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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Gov. Sununu warming to GOP election law reform

January 17. 2018 11:41PM

When it comes to this year’s controversial move to redefine domicile for the purpose of voting, Gov. Chris Sununu’s views continue to evolve.

The first-term Republican pleased voting rights advocates last fall when he came out strongly against the proposal (HB 372), which has the support of Senate and House GOP leaders.

“I hate it. I hope the legislature kills it ... I will never support anything that suppresses the student vote,” Sununu said at the time.

Since then, Sununu has signaled he’s open-minded, if not supportive, about the idea of better defining what it means to be an eligible voter.

Late last week on WKXL, Sununu repeated that he was against the legislation “as written” but was willing to find common ground on reform.

“I do believe that firming up the definitions of domicile and residence, what it is and what it allows you to do, is critical. You have to do that,” Sununu said.

The governor stressed his goal was not to deny the vote to out-of-state college students and he remained concerned the bill could have unintended consequences.

On Jan. 4 during an appearance on NHPR, Sununu sounded similarly open to compromise.

“And I think it was a well-intended bill, but I’d like to see some things tightened up. And we’ll be working with the committee at conference potentially, and the folks in the House, to see if we can get somewhere where we feel comfortable,” Sununu said.

Democratic Party spokesman Wyatt Ronan said Sununu is doing his level best to walk away from a commitment to resist further restrictions on voting rights.

“It’s not surprising to see this tectonic shift from Sununu but it certainly is noteworthy, especially since he has used verbal dodge ball to avoid committing to a veto by saying he opposes the bill as currently written,” Ronan said.

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Meanwhile, the liberal New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights has its own legislative agenda to get the state to leave the Interstate Crosscheck Program.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner approved New Hampshire joining the more than 20 states in the program that pools all voter files in an attempt to detect and root out voter fraud.

This group favors New Hampshire leaving Crosscheck and considering joining other cooperatives such as the Electronic Registration Information Center.

“As made evident by the now-disbanded sham election integrity commission’s request for our voter file, Granite Staters are rightfully concerned about allowing sensitive voter file information to leave the state without just cause or protections,” said Campaign for Voting Rights State Director Liz Webster.

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The newest Republican candidate for 1st Congressional District seat, North Conway’s Mark Hounsell, isn’t happy with the reception he’s received from the news media.

Hounsell penned an e-mail to Republican State Chairman Jeanie Forrester to complain about not getting as much coverage of his kickoff last week.

“I expected that I would learn a great deal once I committed to becoming a candidate for Congress. BUT I never expected that the news releases of my declaration and my extensive positions on issues would not be reported by ANY media other than those media outlets north of Rochester!” Hounsell declared.

Hounsell said he didn’t expect Forrester could or should do something about this.

“The silence of the media regarding my candidacy for Congress is deafening,” Hounsell said.

The Status reported on Hounsell’s announcement last week.

In his first move as a candidate, Hounsell criticized Democrat Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth for having only returned to live in the state a year ago and raising about 80 percent of her money from outside the state.

“As a true blue Granite Stater, with twelve generations of family roots here, I get put out when pawns of partisan connivers attempt to present themselves as one of us after living here for less than one year,” Hounsell said of Sullivan.

According to published reports, Sullivan had considered running for Congress in Illinois before she returned here. A Sullivan campaign spokesman declined comment.

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New Hampshire state revenues are looking up. The good economic news could not come at a better time for an incumbent governor.

Administrative Services Commissioner Charles Arlinghaus reported to Gov. Sununu along with House and Senate leaders, that the state’s two taxes on business are likely to finish $30 million ahead of projections.

This conclusion is critical given that a second round of business tax cuts in 2020 and 2021 is contingent on the business profits tax and business enterprise tax at least making their forecasts in the current budget.

Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said the state tax surplus should not be a license to spend more money this year.

“This session we will continue to closely monitor revenues while adhering to the responsible budget currently in place. I am cautious of legislation which would require spending outside of the current budget,” Morse said.

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Quick takes:

• State GOP Chairman Forrester took to YouTube to announce a recent hire.

Todd Cheewing is the new executive director returning to the state after having worked for the state GOP during the 2016 campaign cycle as the state political director. Cheewing worked as a Republican National Committee regional staffer in New Jersey and had served on the campaign staff of 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Cheewing also worked for the U.S. Department of Labor before taking this post.

• Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, got behind a bipartisan bill to expand access to medication-assisted therapies for opioid addiction. The bill would more than double the number of patients that qualified doctors could treat with therapies such as buprenorphine.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are also prime authors of this Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act, along with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

• Congresswoman Ann Kuster just landed the endorsement of one of the biggest sources for campaign cash on the left. Emily’s List, the pro-abortion rights group. As of Jan. 1, Kuster’s re-election campaign had more than $2 million in the bank.

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