CONCORD - With nine days before the election, the New Hampshire Supreme Court's move to permit voter registration requirements to go forward unleashed a torrent of reactions from supporters and opponents of the controversial 2017 law.
Warning any changes now run the "substantial risk of confusion and disruption," the New Hampshire Supreme Court allowed the so-called SB3 registration forms to remain in place, setting aside a lower court injunction against the law.
Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown, 65, had issued that injunction last Monday. The justices stressed they were not issuing an opinion about the law and would allow Brown's injunction to take effect after the Nov. 6 election.
The unanimous high court ruling blocking Brown's finding Friday marked an incremental but still major legal victory for Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald's offices.
And based on social media comments and press releases, this raised the temperature of Secretary Gardner's bid for another two-year term.
The newly-elected New Hampshire Legislature elects the secretary of state and state treasurer after members are sworn in early next month.
"If any Democrat thinks the present secretary of state, or his deputy, deserves another term in office following this performance, they are simply not paying attention," said former Democratic legislative leader Peter Burling of Cornish.
"SB3 is terrible law, properly blocked after lengthy litigation before Judge Brown. The NH Supreme Court has again failed to protect the rights of NH voters. For shame."
Joann Flood Ashwell is a longtime leader of the League of Women Voters in New Hampshire that along with the Democratic Party sued the state over SB3.
"This action by the secretary of state is disgraceful. Anyone who has actually looked at SB3 and looked at any previous voter registration form can not seriously argue that SB3 is easier," Ashwell said.
Former State Rep. Jim Splaine, a Portsmouth Democrat, insisted Gardner tried his best to make this law less onerous as the Republican-led Legislature passed it and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed it into law.
"I think there are some myths about Bill Gardner's 'support' for SB3 - he actually worked to dull its effect. It was going to pass the Republican legislature and he helped make it much better than it would have been - but he has always worked to encourage people to vote, and supported student voting from the time of being UNH Class President even before his first election to the NH House in 1972," Splaine posted on Facebook.
Gardner could not be reached for comment Saturday.
The reaction of national voting rights leaders condemning the high court's decision also was a source of emotional debate.
Lawrence Lessig is a Harvard Law School professor who founded Equal Citizens and led statewide marches through New Hampshire for campaign finance reform.
"Instead of moving towards a 21st century democracy that promotes an equal freedom to vote, the New Hampshire Legislature and courts have chosen to make casting a ballot even harder," Lessig said. "We should be engaging voters, especially young voters, in the political process, not, as today's decision has done, stifle it."
This caught the eye of New Hampshire conservative activist Kimberly Morin who battled with Lessig on Twitter over his comments.
"But it's OK to stifle actual NH voters? College students can vote via absentee ballot in their home states. It's called 'ADULT-ING 101,'" Morin tweeted.
Let America Vote, the group started by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, also criticized the finding.
"We're disappointed to see the New Hampshire Supreme Court restore the anti-voter provisions of SB3," said Let America Vote Board Chairman Abe Rakov.
A resident voter, Pat Demers, called upon these out-of-state groups to take their campaigns elsewhere.
"Another outsider. Go home," Demers said. "I wonder if this interference, and money push, was so big in my parent's day. I have no idea. Too many people are so angry today, and if they don't like your opinion, they shout at you, or, bring in a lot of cash like what happened to the vote New Hampshire had over SB3."
Torreqms Becker of Manchester agreed with the anti-SB3 sentiment.
"New Hampshire joining the likes of Georgia, North Dakota, and others facing Republican voter scams. I never thought I'd see it in my state. So sad," Becker said.
The 2017 law known as SB3 established new procedures for voter registration within 30 days of an election or on Election Day.
It requires would-be voters to provide proof of residency.
Until this election, voters without identification merely have had to sign a voter affidavit under penalty of perjury they were an eligible voter here.
If people trying to register don't have the right documents, they have up to 30 days to produce them or face penalties for voter fraud including a fine of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.