State prevails in fight over new voting law; remains in place for election

Associated Press
Published: 10/26/2018 12:52:51 PM

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state Friday in a fight over a new voter registration law, keeping it in place through Election Day.

The 2017 law requires new voters to provide more documentation if they register within 30 days of an election. In response to a lawsuit filed by Democrats and others, a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge on Monday blocked the state from using the law in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. But after the state complained, the judge issued an amended order Thursday allowing it to be used until Election Day.

That didn’t satisfy Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, who asked the state Supreme Court to keep the law in place through Election Day. In court documents, they said Judge Kenneth Brown’s original order “undermines the entire election process” and that the amendment created even more confusion.

“The effect of the court’s order is that hundreds of busy, unpaid volunteers received extensive training that is now inapplicable, and they must implement a judicially-created voter registration process untethered to any statues, rules or regulations,” the state wrote.

The court on Friday expressed no opinion on the underlying challenge to the law, but agreed that the lower court’s orders created a “substantial risk of confusion and disruption of the orderly conduct of the election, and the prospect that similarly situated voters may be subjected to differing voter registration and voting procedures in the same election cycle.”

The law was passed after President Donald Trump alleged widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, though there’s been no evidence to support that claim. Republicans argued that existing state laws created the potential for fraud, but in his order, Brown said the new law creates longer lines at the polls, was confusing to understand and did nothing to address voter fraud.

In its request to the Supreme Court, the state claimed the law “incrementally changed” the voter registration process, while the plaintiffs called the changes “sweeping.” They called the request an attempt to cause difficulty “and confusion where there really is none” and argued that the amended order addressed the state’s concerns.

“The defendants may not sit on their hands and wait for, indeed create, an emergency,” because they disagree with the original order, they wrote. “Nor may they manufacture confusion, as they appear to be doing, by delaying the implementation of the injunction and the issuance of guidance to local election officials.”

Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, called the Supreme Court ruling a “setback for New Hampshire’s electoral integrity.”

“We will have resources in the field to assist any voters confused by this unconstitutional law,” he said in a statement. “On November 6th, let’s make sure that regardless of any restrictive legislation, we all turn out and elect legislators who recognize the right to vote as the foundation of our democracy and will fight to protect it.”

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