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House, Senate don’t agree on voting bills

CONCORD — The House Wednesday killed legislation that would change requirements for registering to vote, but agreed to negotiate with the state Senate on a conflicting versions of a separate bill addressing forms of identification required when someone steps into the polling place to cast a ballot.

The House could not agree with Senate changes to the voter registration bill and agreed with Rep. Gary Richardson that “there is no ability to breach that divide” in a conference committee. It voted, 238-104, to “non-concur” with the Senate.

On the voter ID bill, the House voted 286-52 to “non-concur” but also to ask the Senate for a committee of conference to negotiate differences.

Voter registration

Current voter registration law says that to register, one must show that he or she is domiciled in New Hampshire. To do that, current law says, one must sign a form acknowledging that he is subject to the laws of the state, “including laws requiring a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a New Hampshire’s driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a resident.”

A Superior Court judge ruled last fall the reference to motor vehicle laws caused confusion and ordered the state to remove the language from the voter registration forms before the 2012 election. The question for future elections is still pending before the judge.

The bill passed by the House removed any reference to motor vehicle laws. But the Senate inserted similar, but not identical, language as current law.

The Senate version says a person registering to vote must sign a form acknowledging that he is subject to the laws of the state, including laws that “may” require a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a resident.

Richardson said the House Election Law Committee “feels that informing someone that something may be required is tantamount to saying that it shall be required.”

“I do not believe there is room for compromise on this issue,” said Richardson.

Voter ID

Differences on the voter ID law center on whether student IDs are an acceptable form of identification when one goes to the polls.

The current voter ID law allowed for the 2012 election a list of seven forms of identification acceptable at a polling place, including a student ID, and absent any of those, verification of the person’s identity by a local election official. If a voter was challenged, the voter would fill out a “challenged voter affidavit.”

House Bill 595, as passed by the House, kept those seven forms of identification intact and permanently eliminated the requirement that those without IDs have their photos taken at polling places.

The Senate cut the acceptable forms of photo ID to four. It eliminated a student ID as a clearly acceptable form of ID left it up to the discretion of local election officials to determine if a student ID is “legitimate.”


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