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May 30. 2012 8:18PM

Senate tries to hammer out voter ID bill

CONCORD — Negotiators dealing with a voter photo identification bill will meet this morning to see if they can reach some agreement on the two versions of Senate Bill 289.

The Senate’s chief negotiator, Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, essentially crafted an amendment that would essentially use the Senate’s version of the bill for the upcoming 2012 elections and the House version in future elections.

Under the Senate plan, a wide range of identification would be acceptable including driver licenses, state-issued non-license identification cards, military IDs, and student and government identification cards.

No one would be denied a ballot, but those without a photo ID in the general election would have to fill out a challenged voter affidavit.

The House version would restrict identification to driver licenses, state-issued non-license identification cards and military identification.

Rep. William Smith, R-New Castle, told the senators, “If a photo identification bill does not accomplish the mission of identifying the voter as who they say they are, you may do more harm than good.”

The House chief’s negotiator, Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, said the House wants to pass legislation that would deter voter fraud, while the Senate’s primary objective is to please city and town clerks.

Prescott objected, saying the Senate primary objective is to have a photo identification bill in place this fall that will produce a clean election.

“(The clerks) don’t need to be pleased, they need to — under the law — run a clean election,” Prescott said. “They can’t do that under (the House) bill.”

The Senate bill would allow local election officials to verify a person’s identity if they did not have a photo ID, but the House proposal would not allow that after the September primary election.

The proposed House changes would require such things as voters to announce their name and address, for election clerks to record out-of-state drivers’ licenses on the checklist and to photograph those without identification to be attached to affidavits swearing to their domicile.

The House proposal also would require the Secretary of State’s office to buy the photography equipment as well as prepare an educational program for voters going to the polls informing them of the new requirements.

The House and Senate passed a photo identification law last year that Gov. John Lynch vetoed, saying it was too restrictive. The Senate sustained the veto.


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