N.H. Lawmakers Get Earful on State’s Voter I.D. Law

Concord — New restrictions in the state’s voter identification law that are set to go into effect in September could cause delays at the polls, deter some from voting and cost the state close to $1 million, opponents of the restrictions told a Senate hearing yesterday.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said passing legislation repealing those tighter restrictions will allow the state to examine the need for a voter ID law before moving forward.

“I think it’s a good time to stop and take a breath before we progress to the phase two provisions which are both more restrictive to people’s access to the polls and far more expensive for the folks that run elections,” Weber said.

Under the measure being considered at yesterday’s hearing in the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, voters would be required to show a photo ID before obtaining a ballot — including student IDs and other forms of identification that were allowed during the 2012 election. If the next phase of the state’s current voter ID law is implemented, it would require election officials to photograph voters without identification. It would also restrict acceptable identification to driver’s licenses, state-issued identification cards, passports or military IDs that are no more than five years past their expiration. In addition, election officials would no longer have the authority to verify voters from their area whom they recognize.

Jess Clark, state director for America Votes, a progressive voter advocacy group, said her organization calculated the next phase will cost the state $921,000 over the next four years. Those costs would arise from educating the public on the changes, additional staff and equipment costs relating to educational materials and photography equipment.

Cordell Johnston, a lobbyist for the New Hampshire Municipal Association, said the new requirements place a significant burden on the elections workers. “The whole process will take longer, it will involve more election workers and the ones that are there will have to work longer into the night.”

The New Hampshire League of Women Voters and Civil Liberties Union urged to Senate to consider repealing the state’s voter ID law altogether, but added the House-passed bill blocking the next phase is better than nothing. They argue that no evidence of voter fraud exists in New Hampshire and the current law creates barriers to the polls, especially for elderly, low-income and disabled voters, at a time when government should be working to increase access to the polls.

Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, who favors voter ID laws, reiterated his position that voter fraud in New Hampshire has never been found because no one has looked for it. He is hoping to convince senators on the municipal affairs committee to include an amendment he submitted that was defeated on the House floor. That amendment would require a photograph be taken when someone registers without ID, instead of requiring a photo be taken when someone tries to obtain a ballot without ID. He said photographing those who register without ID is a powerful deterrent to fraudsters, but once they’ve registered it doesn’t make sense to photograph them when they pick up their ballot.

Jasper said he hopes the Senate will add his amendment but, he would be willing to wait for those changes until the results of the attorney general’s investigation into the last election is completed. Jasper said he believes the investigation will reveal the need for tighter restrictions.

In the last election, voters who did not have ID and signed affidavits saying they were legally registered voters received a mailer from the Secretary of State to verify their identity. They were given 90 days after receipt to return them. Several thousand came back as undeliverable and the attorney general’s office is currently conducting a review of those cases.