Croydon, voter registration bills heading to Sununu

  • The State House dome as seen on March 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks with the Monitor in Bedford on Tuesday, April. 11, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Thursday, June 08, 2017

Bills that tighten voter registration and allow public money to fund private school tuition are headed to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu, who has said he will sign both.

The so-called Croydon Bill would let certain school districts use taxpayer dollars to send students to nonreligious private schools. The bill comes in response to a situation in the tiny town of Croydon, where the state challenged the school board’s use of public funds to send four students to the private Newport Montessori School. Senate Bill 8 applies only to students who don’t have a public option in their district, such as those without middle or high schools.

Republicans tout the bill as a key school choice measure, while Democrats argue it could face constitutional challenges.

“Parents, children, and school districts must have the ability to choose the education path that is best suited for them and this legislation will ensure that small school districts have flexibility in choosing that path,” Sununu said in a statement. “This bill will not only resolve Croydon’s situation but will also benefit more than a dozen small districts across the state.”

Senate Bill 3 applies to people who register to vote within 30 days of an election and requires them to provide proof they live in New Hampshire and intend to stay. People who show up to the polls to register and don’t have a utility bill, a lease, a car registration or other documentation could still vote. But they would have to sign a form pledging to come back later with a required form of proof. Should a voter not return within 30 days, the bill gives local election officials authority to investigate suspected fraud.

Republicans say the bill is needed to ensure people living here temporarily don’t participate in state elections, while Democrats argue the legislation does little to prevent ineligible voters and will discourage students, homeless people and others from voting.

“This legislation helps protect the integrity of New Hampshire electoral process,” Sununu, a first-term Republican, said in a statement. “As host of the first in the nation primary, New Hampshire has the obligation to ensure our system in beyond reproach.”

Several other bills will be up for debate over the coming days.

A group of senators and representatives will try to come up with a deal on kindergarten funding. The Senate approved full-day kindergarten, but the House added keno as a funding mechanism.