A Republican-backed election law bill is drawing criticism for a provision that says local police might visit people’s homes to verify they are legally eligible to vote. “This is a very hard thing for the League of Women Voters to watch, an attempt to change voting laws based on unsubstantiated claims and fears of widespread voter fraud,” Liz Tentarelli, president of the league’s New Hampshire chapter, testified Tuesday during a public hearing on the Senate bill. The bill aims to put stricter scrutiny on people who register to vote on Election Day or within 30 days of its arrival by requiring them to show verifiable proof that they intend to live in the state. Proof would include a driver’s license, evidence of residence at a university, a lease or deed, or a handful of other items. One provision in the bill says volunteering on a political campaign counts as a “temporary purpose” and, on its own, doesn’t qualify someone to vote in New Hampshire.
Backers of the bill say it will crack down on opportunities for fraud by verifying people who are voting actually live in New Hampshire. Republicans have long argued existing laws open the state to “drive by” voting from out-of-state residents.
“The idea of the bill is not to disenfranchise anyone from voting,” said Republican Sen. Regina Birdsell, the bill’s prime sponsor.
No one will be stopped from voting on Election Day; if they don’t have proof they can sign an affidavit promising to provide evidence of their domicile within 10 or 30 days of the election. If they don’t provide proof within that time frame, town officials could ask the police or local officials to visit their home or request that the Secretary of State to mail them a voter verification letter. If someone’s identity can’t be verified, the Attorney General’s office would be notified, and prosecution could occur, possibly resulting in fines or even jail time if fraud is discovered.