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January 30. 2014 9:21PM

Senate OKs bill modifying ID, absentee ballot-counting rules

CONCORD — Local election officials will be able to approve a voter’s photo identification if it is not on the list of acceptable identification under a bill approved by the Senate Thursday.

Senate Bill 183 would allow election officials like supervisors of the checklists, or moderators or clerks to vouch for a voter with a photo identification that is not on the accepted list, which includes most state, federal and other governmental identifications.
 
 
Beginning in September 2015, the same election officials would be able to vouch for the identity of a voter without a photo ID.
 
 
The bill also addresses issues raised by Gov. Maggie Hassan when she vetoed a bill last year that would have allowed election officials to begin processing absentee ballots during Election Day two hours after the polls open. The absentee ballots would still have to be counted after the polls are closed.
 
 
Hassan said more transparency is needed to keep the process open.

Some party officials objected to the bill, saying it would require observers to be at the polls whenever they are open instead of setting a time to begin processing the ballots as had been done in the past.

The Senate bill requires election officials to post the time they will begin to process the absentee ballots.

The Senate had included that provision in its version of the bill last year, but the House removed it.

Campaign spending

The bill also increases the state’s voluntary campaign spending limits. Gubernatorial candidates would be able to spend up to $1 million per election, while executive councilors would have a $75,000 limit, state senators $50,000 and state representatives and county officials could spend up to $1 per registered voter.
 
 
The state’s voluntary spending limits, which few candidates for major office agree to, require those who do not abide by the limits, to file candidate petitions, to pay a higher registration fee and have to accept smaller contributions from donors.
 
 
The bill removes the offices of U.S. senator and U.S. representative from the voluntary spending limit law.

The bill now goes to the House.

grayno@unionleader.com


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