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House Democrats, Senate Republicans far apart – for now – on voter ID reforms

When Democrats won control of the House last fall, rolling back or repealing the state’s new voter ID law was one of their priorities. But the Senate’s Republican majority has so far thwarted that plan, with just weeks left to reach some sort of compromise.

“I always hope that people can come to compromise, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to compromise on this issue – although the history has not been very successful in terms of compromise on this issue,” said Rep. Gary Richardson of Hopkinton, the Democratic floor leader in the House.

The Democratic-led House in March passed a bill, largely along party lines, that rolled back the voter ID law enacted last year by the GOP-controlled Legislature over a veto from then-Gov. John Lynch.

Democrats said the law requiring voters to either present a photo ID or swear an affidavit makes it harder for students, the elderly and others to vote in New Hampshire, however, they hoped to compromise with the Senate in order to avoid repealing the law entirely. Instead, they sought to block changes that will go into effect this September: a shorter list of acceptable forms of identification that doesn’t include student IDs and a requirement that voters without ID be photographed by election workers.

But Republicans said they were wary of weakening a law intended to prevent voter fraud and ensure fair elections. The GOP-led Senate last month rewrote the House’s bill, rejecting a half-dozen Democratic floor amendments and passing the legislation along party lines.

The Senate’s version leaves in place the shorter list of IDs starting this fall and retains the photo-taking requirement, though in a concession delays the latter provision until 2015. (The secretary of state’s office has estimated that buying cameras and printers for polling places will cost nearly $82,000, plus maintenance and personnel expenses.)

To try to reconcile the two versions of the bill, the Senate tomorrow is expected to appoint negotiators to a committee of conference. Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, last week named Richardson to lead the House negotiators.

“I certainly will try my best to work out a compromise,” Richardson said.

Sen. David Boutin, a Hooksett Republican and chairman of the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, said Senate Republicans will listen to whatever proposals are offered by House Democrats.

But he didn’t predict whether they’d come to an accord.

“I’m confident of this: We’ll have a good discussion, debate, and the Senate will do its best to try to persuade the House that its position is the best position and the House will do the same,” Boutin said. “And we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Committees of conference are required to finish their work by June 20. Assuming the two sides agree on a final version, the bill would then go back to the House and Senate for final votes before heading to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

But in the case of the voter ID legislation, “they’re very, very different bills,” said Joan Flood Ashwell, an election law specialist for the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, which has been a vocal opponent of the voter ID law.

“Of course, we hope they can resolve something,” she said. “But I don’t think the Senate has left – from their statements, they haven’t left a lot of room for negotiating.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments5

Given the near-complete absence of voter impersonation fraud ( as opposed to the purging of 'unwanted' voters as happened in Florida, for example) the motive for voter ID laws is curious, to say the least. In effect, passage of such laws is an effort to make voting more onerous for those in a hurry, for those who risk getting docked, or worse, fired for showing up late for work. Every vote counts in an election, and when you're the minority party, and your demographic is in decline, the best way to retain power is to limit the votes the other side gets--it's called voter suppression. It's real, it's happened all over the country, and it's happening here in NH. What isn't real are the alleged cases of voter fraud: “The analysis of 2,068 reported fraud cases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters.”

If voter suppression was the goal, the turnout of the last election in NH should end that theory.

The excuses of those who are anti voter ID just keep getting funnier and funnier. Maybe you could anser a few questions for me Bruce. How do poor folks get on a govt program without an ID? How do seniors get their retirement benefits without an ID? How do you cash a govt check without an ID? I am curious about all these folks who have no ID. Really, no joke, who are they?

Get those votes anyway you can folks. Make up some fairy tales about thousands of folks who manage to get through life with no ID's to say cash their checks, get meds or even buy booze. Very telling when Dems are against clean elections.

Student ID MUST GO. ......why do democrats want the foreign students to be able to vote.....why do democrats fight to have integrity in the ballot process.....the answer lies in why they want more low information democrat voters to follow their dependence ideology

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