Voter registration lawsuit trial put off until December

A Superior Court judge moved the trial from September to December that challenges a tougher voter verification process known as SB 3. Here, Deputy Secretary of State for Elections David Scanlan urged the House last January to keep in place laws now being challenged by lawsuits. The Democratically-controlled Legislature undid both those laws last spring but Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, is expected to veto them. 

CONCORD — The trial in the high-profile lawsuit that challenges stiffer election laws regarding the registration of new voters got pushed off towards the end of 2019.

And Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge David R. Anderson made it clear that once the trial is completed he won’t issue a final ruling until after next Feb. 11, the tentative date of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Since last October, the state has been blocked from using new voter registration forms and affidavits set out in the 2017 law known as Senate Bill 3.

Judge Kenneth Brown, who has since retired, called those restrictions “unreasonable and discriminatory.”

“The court’s preliminary injunction would therefore remain in place until after the primary,” Judge Anderson wrote in an order Tuesday.

This new schedule moves the trial in this matter from September to six days in December, Dec. 2-5 and Dec. 9-10 in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester.

By Aug. 5, lawyers for both sides must compete their motions about discovery and also confirm that six days would be enough time to complete the trial.

One of the most significant policy achievements of the Republican legislative majority from 2017-2018 was passage of two election reform bills that tightened up the requirements for voter identification and proof of residency.

Both of those laws are being challenged in court by some combination of the League of Women Voters, Democratic Party, ACLU-NH, and individual plaintiffs.

HB 1264 changed the definitions of resident to make voting in New Hampshire a declaration of residency, requiring the voter to make a change of driver’s license and motor vehicle registration within 60 days of casting a ballot in this state.

SB 3 changed the procedures for voter verification, particularly for those trying to register within 30 days of an election.

The Democratically-controlled Legislature that took back control in last November’s elections, have since passed bills (HB 106 and HB 611) that would undo those new voter restriction requirements.

But even legislative leaders expect Gov. Chris Sununu, a two-term Newfields Republican, will veto them.

And the House and Senate GOP forces have enough votes in either body to sustain Sununu’s vetoes.

Let America Vote, a liberal voting rights group, had recently urged Sununu to reconsider and acquiesce to these changes.

“It’s time for Gov. Sununu to sign these bills in order to ensure all eligible New Hampshire voters can vote without restrictive barriers and illegal poll taxes. There is no place in our democracy for making it harder for voters to vote. Gov. Sununu needs to sign these bill in order to protect New Hampshire’s fair and free elections,” said President Abe Rakov.