House passes bill removing exceptions to state voter ID law

Drivers follow the arrows to cast their vote at Auburn Village School, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Auburn, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Drivers follow the arrows to cast their vote at Auburn Village School, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Auburn, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

By ETHAN DeWITT

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 03-15-2024 1:23 PM

Modified: 03-15-2024 2:47 PM


The House narrowly approved a bill Thursday that would eliminate any exceptions to the state’s voter ID laws and require documentary proof of citizenship to vote, 189-185. 

The bill, House Bill 1569, would require a person registering to vote to provide proof of citizenship, using a method such as a birth certificate or passport. 

Republican supporters have presented the bill as a way to solidify the state’s existing ID laws, and eliminate a process known as “affidavit voting.”

But Democrats warned the bill, if signed into law, would disrupt the coming presidential elections and prevent some residents from voting. 

And a day before the vote, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu suggested he did not think the bill was necessary. 

“Our system works very well, so I’m not looking to make any changes,” he said at a press conference in response to a question about the bill, in comments reported by WMUR. 

Currently, new registrants must sign an affidavit on penalty of perjury that they are citizens, but they do not need to bring in hard proof. The Attorney General’s Office has the power to investigate and prosecute any voter suspected of voting illegally, including by falsely claiming citizenship.

The bill would require identification in order to vote – with no exceptions. If passed, the bill would prevent voters who show up to vote without identification from signing an affidavit attesting to their identity and domicile in order to do so. Those voters would need to return with identification or be barred from voting.

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Opponents of the bill argued that it would disenfranchise people who live in the state but do not have documentation to prove their citizenship. More than 2,000 people used affidavits to vote in the 2022 midterms, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. Opponents to the bill noted that obtaining a birth certificate or a passport can take weeks and cost hundreds of dollars, which could prevent people from voting. 

And they argued the bill violated the Help America Vote Act and would not likely survive a court challenge, pointing to a similar bill in Kansas that was overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of that decision. 

“Passing this bill will create upheaval in our fall elections because it will go into effect immediately before our primaries, and it is overturning our entire way that we hold elections,” said Rep. Connie Lane, a Concord Democrat. 

House Republicans said the ID requirements would not be too onerous and matched the documents needed to cross the Canadian border or board a plane. And they said the bill would eliminate the possibility that someone could fraudulently vote using an affidavit.

“Our bill for consideration clarifies those four qualifications for voting: citizenship, age, domicile, and identity,” said Rep. Robert Wherry, a Hudson Republican. “And once a person is registered to vote in the great state of New Hampshire, they need only answer that one question: Who are you?”

Sununu has twice before opposed major Republican-led voting bills, only to sign them later.

In 2017, he told progressive activists he would veto a bill that would require college students and others to vow they intended to live in the state for the foreseeable future in order to vote, in an exchange caught on a hidden camera by one of the activists. Months later he signed the bill. 

In 2023, Sununu expressed opposition to a bill that introduced provisional voting in the state, requiring town officials and the Secretary of State’s Office to void the ballot of anyone who voted without documents and failed to produce those documents after the election. He later signed the bill, stating that he no longer held his concerns.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Sununu said he did not see the need for more changes to the state’s election law, but stopped short of promising a veto should the bill reach his desk. The governor’s office did not respond to a request Thursday to clarify his position. 

After approving the bill, the narrowly divided House voted not to reconsider it, a move that prevented Democrats from attempting to redo the vote with better turnout. The bill heads next to the Senate.