Gardner says NH laws don't make it harder for students to vote

Secretary of State Bill Gardner supports the voter registration changes lawmakers adopted in 2017 to have voting in New Hampshire more closely align with residency. A Superior Court judge dismissed part but not all of a lawsuit the League of Women Voters brought against one of those laws. The trial over the so-called SB 3 changes is set for next month.

MANCHESTER — A Superior Court judge has thrown out part of a lawsuit challenging tighter voter registration procedures adopted by lawmakers in 2017.

The 26-page ruling from Hillsborough County Superior Court North Judge David A. Anderson is the last major decision before the rest of the suit goes to trial in his courtroom next month.

The League of Women Voters has challenged the constitutionality of the so-called SB 3 law that more closely ties voter registration and residency.

The suit challenged the law on four points; the ruling Monday was Anderson’s response to the bid of the Attorney General’s office to dismiss all of those claims.

In the ruling, Anderson dismissed the charge that the new law, yet to be enforced, would contradict the state constitution’s use of “domicile” as a qualification for voting. It also dismissed part of a second claim that the law’s language should be voided for vagueness.

“Therefore the Legislature has the authority to define the meaning of domicile,” Anderson wrote.

Lawyers who challenged the law can still argue at trial that the voter registration changes violate the equal protection clause in the state Constitution by not being uniformly applied across the state, and also would burden an individual’s right to vote.

SB3 requires would-be voters to provide documents proving residency in New Hampshire. The bill’s supporters argued the measure promotes confidence in the state’s elections by assuring only people who live here vote here.

In October 2018, a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge blocked the state from implementing SB3 as the legal challenge progressed. In the injunction, Judge Kenneth Brown wrote that there was little evidence of low confidence in the integrity of New Hampshire’s election system — and no evidence the new law would help.

“The state presented no evidence that the new domicile affidavit has had any impact on the public’s perception of the election process,” he wrote.

A separate lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Hampshire Democratic Party challenges a second voter registration law (HB 1264) that removes the phrase “for the indefinite future” from the definition of residency or “principal place of physical presence.”

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the state’s top election official, has maintained this law doesn’t change any voter registration procedures.

Both lawsuits make it unlikely either new law will be actively enforced for the presidential primary in February.

Thursday, November 14, 2019