New Hampshire Law Toughens Voting Registration Requirements

A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A new law in New Hampshire requires that voters moving to the state within 30 days of an election provide proof that they intend to stay and subjects them to an investigation if they can’t provide the proof and want to vote in future elections.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump alleged widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, although there’s been no evidence to support this. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed the bill into law Monday, effective in 60 days.

It provides that those who can’t provide proof such as a driver’s license or lease would still be allowed to vote, but if they don’t follow up with elections officials within 10 to 30 days, authorities could go to their homes to investigate. In cases where officials can’t verify someone’s address, the voter would be removed from the voter rolls for future elections.

During debate on the measure, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn called it “a stink bomb thrown into the voting booth.” Democrats argued that the lengthy registration form the measure requires would confuse voters. They said some people whose names are not on leases or mortgages, such as homeless voters or domestic violence victims, would have to get written statements verifying their addresses.

But Republicans, who control the Legislature, contended existing state laws create the potential for fraud and the governor said after the bill was passed last month that “as host of the First in the Nation primary, New Hampshire has the obligation to ensure our system is beyond reproach.”

At a recent news conference, Durham town clerk Lorri Pitts said her town council opposed the legislation, saying it was based on unfounded allegations of fraud. The additional steps required to register new voters would significantly slow the process, she said, and trying to verify addresses would be burdensome.

In New Hampshire, people can register to vote on Election Day and can vote if they claim the state as their domicile, or the place they consider their home. Opponents of the existing law said the definition is too loose and wrongly allows campaign workers or others here for temporary purposes to cast ballots.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of Trump’s commission on election fraud, had testified in favor of the legislation. He cited public perception that voter fraud exists as reason to tighten up New Hampshire’s laws. In the 2016 elections, nearly 9,000 people filled out affidavits swearing their identity and domicile because they lacked the proper documentation, Gardner said.

The Secretary of State’s office is required to mail voter verification cards to everyone who signs an affidavit. Gardner said roughly 740 were returned as undeliverable. The state has prosecuted only a handful of actual fraud cases in recent years.

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