Executive Councilors Chris Pappas and Andru Volinsky: We won’t help Sununu dodge decision on voter suppression bill

For the Monitor
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

As executive councilors, we are elected to oversee the administration of the executive branch of government. We are charged with approving state contracts and appointments, we are watchdogs of state government programs and performance, and we are advocates for the constituents and communities we represent.

Today, the Executive Council is being asked to approve Gov. Chris Sununu’s request for an advisory opinion from our state’s Supreme Court for a piece of controversial voter suppression legislation, House Bill 1264. This legislation unfairly targets students, but it also could affect those in low-income communities for whom the cost of a driver’s license or car registration might break the bank.

We happen to agree with the governor’s assessment of this bill as written. He said of the content of the bill: “I’m hoping that the Legislature kills it. ... I will never support anything that suppresses the student vote. End of story.”

We are not here, however, to argue the merits of the bill; that was the Legislature’s responsibility. With an option to send the bill to committee of conference to address any of the governor’s concerns, legislators instead decided to pass the bill as written. They made clear to Gov. Sununu that they had made up their minds, and we believe it’s time for him to follow through on the clear pledge he made to the voters of New Hampshire.

The governor’s decision to ask the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion is an 11th-hour diversion tactic that happened far too late in the process, and it sets a bad precedent.

If the governor thought there was a need to have the Supreme Court review the legislation, he should have asked the Legislature to request their own advisory opinion. In addition, recent history suggests that the court will reject the request for an opinion, especially considering that there is pending litigation against a different restrictive voting bill signed by the same governor last year.

If Gov. Sununu still opposes the bill, he should veto it. That much is obvious. But in appealing to the Executive Council, we believe he is trying to dodge a decision that might anger members of his own party and complicate his re-election. Ultimately, the buck stops with the governor, and we are not going to be a part of such political games.

Today, we will vote to reject Gov. Sununu’s request for an advisory opinion on this controversial bill. In doing so, we will be encouraging him to fulfill his constitutional obligations, stick with his stated position and veto legislation that is intended to restrict voting access to our fellow Granite Staters.

(Chris Pappas of Manchester is executive councilor for District 4. Andru Volinsky of Concord is executive councilor for District 2.)