CONCORD — A federal judge has denied a motion to stop a new residency law from being implemented before the New Hampshire primary.
The law, known as HB 1264, was passed in 2018. It slightly changed the definition of “residency” in one section of New Hampshire law to eliminate the requirement that a person plan to live in New Hampshire “for the indefinite future” to be considered a resident.
Secretary of State William Gardner has said the law does not change the requirements to register to vote.
On Nov. 6, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion to ask that the new law not be implemented before the presidential primary, scheduled for Feb. 11, 2020. The ACLU argued the law was unconstitutional because it will make voting more burdensome for students and new residents. The law makes registering to vote an effective declaration of residency, the plaintiffs argue, triggering obligations and fees for drivers and car owners.
An amendment to the ACLU’s complaint added that the rollout of the law has caused confusion for some town clerks and would-be voters. The ACLU requested a judge temporarily stop the law from being implemented because of the confusion, but Judge Joseph N. Laplante, Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for the District of NH, said that guidance issued earlier this month by the Attorney General’s Office cleared up the confusion.
The decision means that the law will be in effect during the presidential primary, even as the ACLU’s suit seeking to strike it down continues.