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A perfect mess: House GOP chooses two big losses

June 23. 2012 8:28PM

New Hampshire could have had a good voter ID law on the books before this summer's primary elections. We also could have had an education-funding constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall. House Republicans chose defeat instead.

On Thursday, Gov. John Lynch vetoed Senate Bill 289, the voter ID bill. It was no surprise. Lynch vetoed it for some of the same reasons he vetoed last year's voter ID bill.

Everyone predicted this would happen if House Republicans insisted on excluding college IDs and on requiring a signed qualified-voter affidavit for any voter who showed up at the polls without a photo ID. They did, and as predicted, Lynch vetoed it.

House Republicans insisted on those and other more restrictive provisions even though they knew that: a) they would provoke a Lynch veto; b) they were opposed by the Secretary of State and municipal clerks, which would give Lynch solid political cover for his veto; and c) there were not enough votes in the Senate to override Lynch's veto if those provisions remained in the bill.

Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, rallied the House to its uncompromising position. With his bombast, he made many Republicans feel bold and fearless, as though they were the sharp, glittering steel tip of a grand crusade for electoral integrity. In reality, he had merely led them into a tight little box from which there was no escape, and only the dimmest prospect of victory.

There are not enough votes in the Senate to override Lynch's veto. The only prayer is that both chambers can agree to a last-second fix that brings the bill back toward the Senate version that should have been approved in the first place.

The Senate bill would have imposed a solid voter ID requirement, and it had the advantage of being supported by the Secretary of State and the municipal clerks.

Lynch gave no indication he would have vetoed that version, and in fact last week he said he would have signed it. Instead, we face an enormously important presidential election in which New Hampshire is a vital swing state - with no requirement that voters prove who they say they are before they can obtain a ballot.

On education funding, at least the Republicans who brought about that defeat were a small minority. The result, though, was the same: an insistence on perfection prevented the passage of legislation that would have solved a serious problem.

With these two important victories within their grasp, House Republicans chose to lose.

Maybe they will learn their lesson and do better next year - if enough of them are still in Concord next year.


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