House, Senate agree to meet to reconcile voter ID bills
CONCORD — The state Senate agreed Wednesday to negotiate with the House on new, but differing voter identification and voter registration requirements reflected in separate versions of bills that have been debated throughout the legislative session.
The Senate agreed to House requests for committees of conference on House Bill 595, which sets out forms of identification required when one steps into the polling place to cast a ballot. A conference committee was also agreed to negotiate House Bill 664, a bill establishing a nonprofit state vaccine association, to which the House's voter registration provisions were attached last week.
Differences on the voter ID bills center on whether student IDs are an acceptable form of identification at 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, and left it up to the discretion of local election officials to determine if a student ID is "legitimate."
It kept in tact current provisions requiring photos to be taken of those without acceptable forms of IDs, but put off that requirement until 2015.
The Senate assigned Republican Sens. David Boutin and Jeanie Forrester and Democrat David Pierce to the conference committee. The House assigned Democratic Reps. Gary Richardson, Mary Ann Knowles, Robert Perry and David Cote. The conference committee is scheduled to meet Monday.
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.
House conferees for the voter issues are Democratic Reps. Edward Butler, Kermit Williams, Laurie Harding and David Cote. Senate conferees are Republican Sens. Jeb Bradley and Forrester and Democrat Pierce.
The conference committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.