My Turn: Override veto of voter residency bill

Last modified: 9/16/2015 1:16:09 AM
New Hampshire is known as a state whose citizens favor strong independence. This is evident not only by the high number of undeclared registered voters but our citizens’ strong adherence to the “Live Free or Die” motto itself.

The New Hampshire Legislature, made up of representatives and senators elected by the people, passed a number of important bills this session that were vetoed by the governor, unfortunately, because of partisan reasons. The most obvious and detrimental veto was the state budget. However, another bill to restore meaningful elections to the state of New Hampshire was also met with ink from Gov. Hassan’s veto pen.

I worked alongside New Hampshire’s Secretary of State William Gardner, the country’s longest serving secretary of state, and studied voter laws in all 50 states to see how they work to minimize voter fraud. We found that 17 other states require voters to have been residents for 30 days before being able to vote in elections. All but four states in the United States have various voter residency requirements as well. Not surprisingly, New Hampshire has some of the most lenient voter laws in the nation, making it extremely susceptible to what Secretary Gardner has termed “drive-by voting.”

We respect independence and freedom of our citizens, but we have an obligation to protect an individual’s right to vote and the integrity of each vote cast by New Hampshire citizens, too. By adding a 30-day residency requirement, we can still honor our tradition of same day registration, but it requires voters to have some investment in the community they are voting in. We know that elections have consequences and by requiring some level of investment in the community impacted by such elections, is not too much to ask.

A recent WMUR Granite State Poll indicates that New Hampshire citizens largely favor a voter residency requirement. In fact, 57 percent of New Hampshire adults support a 30-day voter residency requirement.

Did Gov. Hassan ever consider this?

It’s unlikely that she considered the opinions of the majority of people she represents but instead just a small fraction of voters.

Many believe that voting in New Hampshire is more valuable or meaningful because our state is often viewed as a swing state in presidential primaries and general elections. Consequently, we see greater incidences of drive-by voting.

The legislation we developed is a solution that recognizes that New Hampshire’s inconsistencies in voter residency as one of the most prominent examples of voter fraud that we face. We took special care to strike a balance between protecting our citizens’ right to vote in free, fair and accessible elections while maintaining the value of each individual’s vote. This legislation would have provided a simplified and clear law guiding voters and also maintaining same-day voter registration.

This legislation serves to clarify the intent of the state’s current voter law by ensuring those who cast votes had a vested interest in their communities and the New Hampshire way of life.

By adding a basic 30-day residency requirement, New Hampshire is able to strengthen the integrity of its elections at every polling place, in every election. This strengthens and protects our cherished right to vote.

Let me also remind our citizens that this bill passed both the New Hampshire Senate and the House. But it seems the governor ignored the importance of these supportive votes, instead choosing her own, unchecked path.

Legislators have a number of important decisions to make on Wednesday, when we meet in session to take up vetoed legislation. The integrity of our New Hampshire citizens’ votes continues to be at risk, and I urge legislators to support an override on SB 179 so that we can restore meaningful elections to the Granite State.

(State Sen. Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican, is chairwoman of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee and the Judiciary Committee, and serves on the Health and Human Services Committee.)

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