May 09. 2012 7:23PM

Forward on voter ID: Protect the next election


Last year, Gov. John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill, proclaiming, “There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire.” This year he cannot make that claim with a straight face. The Project Veritas sting on Primary Day in January showed how easy it is to obtain a ballot fraudulently in New Hampshire. The House, though, might give the governor cover for another veto.

The voter ID bill Lynch vetoed last year was complex and full of technical issues that gave the governor cover for his opposition. The Secretary of State’s Office opposed the bill not out of antagonism to voter ID in general, but because of what it saw as the difficulty of implementing the bill. The New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association was opposed for similar reasons. In his veto message, Lynch cited all of that opposition.

In March, the Senate passed (by a veto-proof 18-5 margin) a simpler voter ID bill. Senate Bill 289 is not the most stringent of voter ID bills. But it would do the trick. It would require voters to show an ID before obtaining a ballot. Any voter who does not have an ID could vote by signing a challenged voter affidavit — under penalty of perjury.

That is a pretty good voter fraud deterrent. SB 289 has the support of both the secretary of state (a Democrat) and the clerks association. It denies no one the right to vote, and Lynch would have a tough time coming up with a credible-sounding justification for a veto. It also could be implemented in time for the next elections.

But some Republicans in the House want to amend the bill to make it supposedly tougher — and much more complicated. The result would be a bill Lynch certainly would veto. If the Legislature overrode the veto, the provisions could not be implemented in time for the next elections, according to credible testimony from clerks and the Secretary of State’s Office.

Replacing the Senate’s text with the proposed House Election Law Committee amendment would be to kill our best shot at getting a solid voter ID law in place in time for the upcoming elections. The House should not do it. It should instead pass SB 289 to protect the integrity of the upcoming elections and revisit the issue next year if any improvements are needed.