Sununu vetoes Democratic voter verification overhaul 

  • Gov. Chris Sununu AP

Monitor staff
Published: 9/27/2019 5:53:54 PM
Modified: 9/27/2019 5:53:44 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed two final bills Friday – including an effort to overhaul how New Hampshire verifies its voters after elections – ending a legislative spree that saw a record 57 vetoes overall.

The governor moved to quash House Bill 315, which would bring to an end the state’s participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

That program, in which states share voter information to identify potential matches among voters in two states, has been assailed by Democrats and voting rights groups who say it’s inaccurate and susceptible to security breaches.

The program is currently not operational after a legal challenge put it on hold. 

Reform advocates have pushed instead for New Hampshire to adopt a rival program, the Electronic Registration Information Center, which also allows states to share voter information but which supporters argue identifies fewer false matches.

New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, is opposed to joining ERIC, citing costs associated with joining and maintaining that it would require too much data to be shared. In his veto message, Sununu said the bill should have granted more deference to Gardner’s office on making that call. 

“House Bill 315 would impose unreasonable restrictions on the Secretary of State’s ability to determine the best voter registration information-sharing arrangement for our state,” Sununu wrote. “New Hampshire should maintain the Secretary of State’s flexibility on this issue and trust him to make the best decision for the people of New Hampshire, as he has done for over 40 years.”

Advocates were quick to take issue with the accuracy of Sununu’s characterization. The bill does not create a mandate on Gardner or his office; it states that Gardner’s office “may” enter an information sharing arrangement but doesn’t state that it “shall.”

And they said that by vetoing the reform bill, Sununu was forcing the state to remain in a currently-disbanded information program when a better alternative exists.

“Governor Sununu is failing Granite Staters by remaining part of the Interstate Crosscheck System, an inaccurate, insecure and currently defunct platform known to purge eligible voters, instead of joining a more reliable system such as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), in use by 29 other states - red and blue alike - nationwide,” read a statement by the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights, an advocacy group.

But Sununu maintained that the bill as written created unnecessary specifications for the type of program Gardner could have entered into.

“I would have supported the bill as passed by the House, which would have removed the requirement that the Secretary of State enter into the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program, but preserved the Secretary’s abiliy to enter into arrangements as he sees fit,” Sununu wrote.

On Friday, the governor also vetoed House Bill 226, which would have lowered the time threshold for teachers to be awarded “experienced educator certificates” by the state Board of Education. Presently, educators must wait five years; the new law would reduce that to three, with two consecutive years on the job necessary.

Sununu said the bill would inhibit “the ability for local school boards to replace low-performing teachers with better ones.”

The vetoes represent Sununu’s decisions on the last two bills of the session, closing off what has been a record year for legislation passed by the Democratically-led House and Senate.

The two chambers will likely take up the veto decisions in January, shortly before starting the 2020 session. 

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