Our Turn: S.1 and the negative impacts for NH

Published: 5/23/2021 9:30:13 AM

Every presidential election cycle, New Hampshire residents take pride in being the first in the country to hold primaries. And generally, as New Hampshire goes, so goes the nation.

As one Democratic political strategist argues, as state election laws became more democratized, primaries became more important, along with the “sequence in which [primaries] occurred.” As a result, New Hampshire became the place “where presidents were made.” (Brookings, “Why is New Hampshire the first primary in the nation?”)

That was then, this is now.

Washington Democrats are pushing legislation that could take that privilege away from New Hampshire and implement a federal takeover of state elections. S.1 would override New Hampshire election laws by imposing heavy-handed, unworkable mandates and could make it impossible for the state to continue its hallowed “first in the nation” tradition.

S.1 would be disastrous for the state, and New Hampshire’s senators should reject the bill.

New Hampshire’s election model has produced some of the best voter turnouts over the last four presidential elections, but that could all change if hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised Granite Staters lack confidence that their votes count fairly and equally – why vote at all?

As New Hampshire Secretary of State William M. Gardner says, “New Hampshire has a solid track record for running sound and trouble-free elections that do not warrant this type of federal meddling.” (NHPR, “N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner Statement on H.R. 1”) He’s right, and power-hungry federal lawmakers would do well to listen to him.

The reality is that if S.1 passes, New Hampshire will lose control over its elections. Laws like the state’s common-sense voter ID requirement would be eliminated. Already, individuals who don’t show an ID on election day can cast a ballot but must take additional steps to prove their identity through a transparent, verifiable process. S.1 outlaws this safeguard, mandating that voters without an ID can vote as long as they sign an unverifiable statement attesting to their eligibility without the threat of further investigation.

Eliminating ID requirements is particularly dangerous when combined with provisions preventing state officials from using United States Postal Service records and other databases to remove ineligible voters from the rolls.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support voter ID because they want secure elections. A recent poll by the Honest Elections Project found that 77% of voters support an ID requirement, including large majorities of Biden voters, Black voters, and Hispanic voters.

In addition to threatening election security, S.1 would cause chaos in many states. Reporting by the Daily Beast (“How This Voting Rights Bill,” 3/30/21), a left-leaning publication, uncovered that Democrat election officials who broadly agree with the goals of S.1 oppose the bill, and in fact, many liberal officials think it is completely unworkable.

S.1 also requires states to implement an automatic voter registration program, which many officials say can’t be done on such a short timeline. State election officials, both Democrat and Republican, oppose this bill because they know it will make conducting elections more expensive and less secure. It should be easy to vote and hard to cheat. Not so under S.1, as it would make it very easy to cheat.

For years, New Hampshire has established a legacy of excellence, consistently generating high turnout and voter participation while ensuring everyone who wants to vote can vote. But instead of advancing a fair and transparent election process that will cement our time-honored traditions and preserve our democratic process for generations to come, S.1 would certainly spell disaster for our democracy and generations of diluted and disenfranchised New Hampshire voters. Lawmakers in Washington should respect New Hampshire election traditions and laws and reject S.1.

(Stephen Stepanek is chairman of the NH GOP. Ken Cuccinelli is chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative, former attorney general of Virginia, and Acting Deputy Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security.)

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