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New Hampshire Democratic Party sues to stop new voter law

  • 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)



Associated Press
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The head of New Hampshire’s Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging a new state law that requires voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election to provide proof that they intend to stay. The party contends it presents confusing, unnecessary and intimidating hurdles to voting.

Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley said the law amounts to voter suppression. He’s asking for a judge to declare the law, signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in July, unconstitutional.

The lawsuit names Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Secretary of State William Gardner as defendants. A statement from MacDonald’s office says the law is presumed to be constitutional.

“The Department of Justice will defend it vigorously and we are confident it will be sustained,” the statement said.

The suit says the law will penalize voters “simply for failing to understand or comply with confusing and burdensome paperwork requirements.”

It says the law requires all people seeking to register to vote to present evidence of “a verifiable act or acts carrying out” their intent to be domiciled in New Hampshire. It contends people seeking to register more than 30 days before an election could be denied the right to register, and that those who can’t present such documentation within 30 days must complete different, lengthy forms.

The law, which takes effect in September, says 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 election officials, authorities could go to their homes to investigate them. In cases where officials can’t verify someone’s address, the voter would be removed from the voter rolls for future elections.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump alleged widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, although there’s been no evidence to support this. Democrats challenged the measure during debate in the Legislature, but Republicans, who control the House and the Senate, contended existing state laws create the potential for fraud. Sununu said after the bill was passed that “as host of the First in the Nation primary, New Hampshire has the obligation to ensure our system is beyond reproach.”

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.

Buckley’s lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. It said the many Democratic Party members in the county would be “unduly burdened” if the law were permitted to stand, citing the high same-day registration rate in Nashua.

Gardner, a member of the Republican president’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.