CONCORD — Gov Chris Sununu vetoed the so-called “no excuse” absentee voting bill Friday, warning it would erode the state’s vaunted political tradition of in-person participation at the polls.
Advocates of the bill had wanted New Hampshire to join 28 other states and the District of Columbia, which allow voters to obtain an absentee ballot without having to give a reason for why they can’t make it to the polls.
Sununu, a two-term Republican, set the bill aside, bringing to 55 the number of 2019 bills he’s vetoed that the Democratically-controlled Legislature has passed.
“This bill would erode an aspect of our unique process that has New Hampshire leading the way when it comes to civic engagement,” Sununu wrote.
The Senate will first take up this question when it meets for a session on the vetoes Sept. 19.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, said restrictions for voting while absent are unfair.
“Current New Hampshire law, which requires voters requesting an absentee ballot to predict what they will be doing on election day weeks or months in advance, is both unreasonable and illogical,” Rogers said in a statement.
“Most U.S. states allow their citizens the choice of voting in person or by mail, and there is no reason for New Hampshire to cling to an archaic process.”
The League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union had supported this cause (HB 611).
The Secretary of State’s office, citing New Hampshire’s “unique and different traditions,” opposed such a move, as did the New Hampshire City & Town Clerks’ Association, which claims that “no excuse” absentee ballot voting would be a “logistical nightmare.”
“New Hampshire in many ways is unique and different, and I think we have to respect those traditions when looking at legislation, and making sure that what we pass here is in New Hampshire’s interests and not part of a one-size-fits-all national approach to elections,” Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said in testimony to the Senate.
Scanlan cited the New Hampshire Constitution, which requires the Legislature to enable voting by qualified voters who “at the time of the (election), are absent from the city or town of which they are inhabitants, or who by reason of physical disability are unable to vote in person.”
“To expand absentee voting to a situation where anyone can do it for no reason and no excuse? I believe a strong argument could be made that the constitution would have to be changed to permit that to happen,” Scanlan added.
Sununu vetoed another bill Friday; SB 99 seeks to expand the definition of partial disability when it comes to injured workers getting workers’ compensation benefits.
Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, authored that measure.
Sununu said it would unfairly raise costs for businesses that bear all the expenses for these benefits.