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Judge rules voter registration conditions illegal

A judge has struck down a 2012 law as unconstitutional that effectively blocked out-of-state students and others from voting in New Hampshire unless they established residency in the state that extended to other activities beyond voting, such as getting a driver’s license.

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a petition on behalf of four out-of-state college students and the New Hampshire League of Women Voters two years ago, arguing the law would freeze out eligible voters.

The law required people registering to vote to sign a statement saying they declare New Hampshire their domicile and are subject to laws that apply to all residents, including requirements they register their cars in the state and get a New Hampshire driver’s license. Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers overrode his veto.

In making a preliminary order permanent, Strafford County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker said the law added language to voter registration forms that was a “confusing and unreasonable description of (existing) law” and was “unduly restrictive.”

Tucker cited a 2006 New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling that listing candidates in alphabetical order, giving preferential placement to the parties based on the votes they garnered in the last election, is unconstitutional.

He said the language added to the registration forms may discourage people from voting if they think they have to change their driver’s license and car registration, resulting in “a severe chilling effect on the right of those domiciled here to vote.”

“The threat to the fundamental right to vote here is at least as acute as the danger that alphabetical listing of candidates had on the right to be elected,” Tucker wrote.

The Civil Liberties Union received notice yesterday that the judge made permanent a previous preliminary order blocking enforcement of the law.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the decision will help ensure that all citizens can exercise their constitutional right to vote without obstruction.

“I oppose this law, which attempted to undermine the fundamental right to vote, a right that is the cornerstone of our democratic society,” she said.

Gilles Bissonnette, a lawyer for the civil liberties group, said the law, if enforced, would have applied to not just students, but to resident doctors in training and members of the military who plan to leave the state when their work is done.

“If (legal) residency was the requirement to vote, it would disenfranchise all sorts of people in New Hampshire,” Bissonnette said. “By protecting voting as a fundamental right, today’s decision affirms that all New Hampshire voters who call this state ‘home’ should have the opportunity to participate equally in the democratic process.”

Legacy Comments4

Bravo! Voting is a fundamental right that should be made easy and simple. Score one for democracy. Claims of voter fraud are vastly overblown. Republican strategies to make it harder to vote, including "cleansing' the voter rolls, and restricting access to polling stations by cutting back hours (especially in minority districts) are on-going, however.

yes..but there is voting..and then...there are ballot questions...voting for president is one thing..but answering a ballot question such as "should NH have an income tax"...shouldnt there be some sort of qualification to have access to that??? And should we now just dump the absentee ballot for the most part? Unless of course..you actually WANT to vote on ballot questions involving the state which you really reside in...this whole thing needs some sane people to really look at it..so far it aint happening

Marxist dems 1, common sense 0, NH taxpayers -3

“confusing and unreasonable description of (existing) law” - based on that ruling most of laws written by democrats like NObamaKare is headed to the scrap pile.

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