Under SB3, new voters have to prove residency, but no penalties yet

  • Lori Roukey stands by election signs in the rain at the Henniker Community School on Tuesday morning, November 6, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • NHTI provided students documentation to prove their residency so they could vote Tuesday. Ethan DeWitt—

Monitor staff
Published: 11/6/2018 5:10:15 PM

In Henniker, where the presence of New England College means there are always a lot of people registering to vote for the first time on election day, things went smoothly Tuesday despite a new law that beefed up the amount of evidence needed to cast a ballot.

“I didn’t know what to bring; I just guessed,” said Ken Thomas, 23. Because he didn’t have a birth certificate or passport to prove citizenship, beyond his driver’s license for identification, he had to sign an extra sheet saying he will bring the proper documentation to town hall within 10 days. 

If he forgets, however, there’s no problem. Penalties for those who don’t comply were suspended by a court last year to accommodate a lawsuit that brought against the new law, known as Senate Bill 3.  

The lawsuit is part of the legal debate that broke out after Gov. Sununu signed the bill into law in July. Its backers said SB3 would provide more protection against people voting twice or in the wrong district, while opponents called it a way to discourage certain groups from voting, especially college students and the homeless. 

At the Henniker Community School gym on Tuesday, other newly registered voters were more prepared.

“I went online to see what I had to bring,” said Robyn Palmer, 31. She brought her birth certificate and, to prove that she lived in town, an electric bill “just in case.”

Interviews with more than a dozen voters who registered at the polls in Henniker throughout the middle of the day found no complaints – although one NEC student did decline to vote after learning that he couldn’t cast a ballot for candidates in his home state but had to make decisions about New Hampshire politicians.

Filling out the forms took most people perhaps 10 minutes, and even when doors opened at 7 a.m. and hordes of people came to vote before going to work, voters had little wait to get assistance from one of the volunteer election workers.

“It was fairly easy,” said Haleigh Noseworthy, 18, a New England College student, after voting for the first time. A resident of Milton, New Hampshire, she said she made it to the Henniker Community School Gym, a short walk from campus, largely at the urging of a professor who “was big on our voting.”  

“They wanted a birth certificate, but it’s at home,” she said.

A student I.D. from New England College was considered proof of residence in Henniker. 

In Concord, New Hampshire Technical Institute provided other documentation. Some students showed up with letters from their Resident Assistants, neatly printed on NHTI letterhead, certifying that they did live in their dorms.

“I found it perfectly fine,” said Dan Campbell, an NHTI student. “The RA was just like, ‘Hey this is how you get to the polls, this is what you need and everything.’ ”

Campbell, who hails from Jaffrey, was told by get-out-the-vote advocates on campus he should make arrangements to prove that he lives at the college Langley Hall.

At New England College, a shuttle was provided for students who wanted to vote. The school had a few other incentives to get students to vote, joked one student who declined to give her name: “They bribed us with doughnuts!”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmoni tor.com or on Twitter @Gra niteGeek.)

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