A late amendment to a bill that would limit voting to New Hampshire residents passed a Senate committee Tuesday, setting the stage for a new political battle in the Legislature next session over voting requirements. The proposed change would require residency in the state, setting a higher bar for eligibility than present election law, which requires only that voters be “domiciled.” Democrats were quick to condemn the move, calling it an attempt to suppress voting that would effectively target college students. Under current law, being domiciled means physically occupying a space in the state “more than any other place.” Residency carries stronger burdens of proof, such as utility bills or rental, and one of the consequences of declaring residency is that new residents must register their cars in New Hampshire and get state-issued driver’s licenses.
The amendment, added to House Bill 372, specified that “a person must be a resident of New Hampshire to vote or hold office in New Hampshire.” Introduced by Sens. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, and James Gray, R-Rochester, the proposal came during an executive session of the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee.
HB 372 passed the House, 188-163, last session – the original bill was meant to cut out portions of the state’s definition of residency to allow it to apply to voting while avoiding potential constitutional challenges. Tuesday’s amendment was the first language change that would explicitly require residency for voting.