Federal lawsuit against NH election law ends

The parties suing over a 2018 election law linking voter registration to residency dropped their lawsuit Friday. The New Hampshire Supreme Court is still viewing the legal challenge to a separate, 2017 law on the topic. Here, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan testified in 2018 for the law (HB 1264) that inform those who vote here they have to comply with driver's license and auto registration fee laws as all residents do.

CONCORD — Citizens who sued the state over a 2018 election law linking voter registration to residency dropped their federal lawsuit Friday.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union had supported the suit against the law passed by the then-Republican-led Legislature passed and signed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The plaintiffs maintained the law (HB 1264) was unconstitutional because it discouraged college students and new residents from voting.

The law’s supporters said it brought New Hampshire in line with all other states in the country that don’t allow non-residents to vote.

The plaintiff’s decision to drop the suit came a day after the New Hampshire Supreme Court spelled out its view to U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante, who had been hearing the suit.

The high court unanimously said the law meant anyone who registers to vote has to comply with motor vehicle laws to get an in-state driver’s license and register a car, if appropriate, within a legal deadline.

Sununu celebrated the development.

“Today’s agreement to dismiss the challenge to HB 1264 is welcome news for New Hampshire voters,” Sununu said in a statement Friday. “Our laws will now truly guarantee an equal right to vote and align New Hampshire with virtually every other state.”

A related election law reform still remains mired in a court fight, however.

The League of Women Voters and New Hampshire Democratic Party sued over the 2017 law known as SB 3, claiming it violated the equal protection clause of the state Constitution because it was not uniformly applied across the state.

After a trial, a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge sided with the opponents and ruled parts of that law were unconstitutional.

Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, the Democratic-led Legislative Fiscal Committee voted to slash MacDonald’s request for money to hire outside counsel.

The move was clearly aimed at trying to block MacDonald’s hiring of former Republican Party Vice Chairman and Concord lawyer Bryan Gould to act as a special lawyer assisting the state with its appeal.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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