Gov. Chris Sununu: NH welcomes new voters, if they become NH residentsBy GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU
July 13. 2018 1:42PM
AS HOST OF THE First in the Nation Presidential Primary, New Hampshire has an obligation to ensure our electoral system is beyond reproach. House Bill 1264, which seeks to clearly define the rules surrounding the state's voting process, has been the subject of vigorous debate for the better part of this year.
After receiving an advisory opinion from the New Hampshire Supreme Court finding the bill to be constitutional, I signed HB 1264 into law this past Friday. New Hampshire will now align with virtually every other state in requiring residency in order to vote.
Currently, an individual who is domiciled in this state, but who does not have any real intention of making New Hampshire their home, may vote in our elections while avoiding the obligations that all other residents must meet. HB 1264 will put every voter on an equal footing by making all those who vote in New Hampshire subject to the same legal requirements.
I had expressed serious concerns regarding the bill's constitutionality from the very beginning. In fact, I said I hated the bill because I harbored concerns that the bill could be found to unconstitutionally suppress votes. Following its passage, I requested an advisory opinion from the New Hampshire Supreme Court to put this issue to rest once and for all. And the Executive Council agreed.
This past Thursday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued its opinion. While two justices asked to be excused from answering the questions posed by the request, the three justices who elected to answer the questions we asked were unanimous. In a thorough, logical, and detailed opinion, the court addressed each of the arguments made by opponents and found that HB 1264 does not violate the New Hampshire or United States Constitutions. Specifically, the justices stated, "the bill serves the compelling state interest of ensuring that those allowed to vote in this state share a community of interest with the population generally."
The court also addressed the specific arguments made by opponents of HB 1264, stating that those arguments "misconstrue the purpose and effect of HB 1264." The Court concludes by observing that under HB 1264, those who come to New Hampshire on a temporary basis will have a choice. They may retain residency in their home states or make New Hampshire their domicile for voting purposes. If New Hampshire does become their domicile, such individuals will now be subject to, as the court says, "the same obligations of state citizenship as are imposed on all other residents of the State." In the words of the Court, "there is nothing unfair or unconstitutional about state laws that require persons to make this choice."
House Bill 1264 has restored equality and fairness to our elections, and the Supreme Court has ruled the bill is constitutional while affirming that New Hampshire has a compelling state interest in seeing this bill enacted. Finally, every person who votes in New Hampshire will be treated the same. This is the essence of an equal right to vote.
In signing this bill, no promises were broken. I never said I would veto this bill, but I did promise to stand up for fairness and equal opportunity for all Granite Staters. For this reason, and pursuant to my duty to uphold the provisions of our state Constitution, I signed House Bill 1264 into law.
Gov. Chris Sununu lives in Newfields.