Convicted felons behind bars in New Hampshire could get the right to vote under a proposal that is heading for a full vote by the House. If passed, the measure would put the state in the ranks of Vermont and Maine — the only two states where felons never lose their right to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the bill, sponsored by four Democrats, faces an uphill battle after being deemed unworkable by the House Elections Law Committee on Thursday. The Department of Corrections took no position on the bill, but spokesman Jeff Lyons raised concerns about the impact on nearly 100 New Hampshire inmates incarcerated out of state and whether it would burden corrections staff. Currently, convicted felons in the Granite State are eligible to vote once released.
“I don’t see any reason why people who are incarcerated should be deprived of their rights of citizenship,” said Rep. Judith Spang, a Durham Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.
But Elections Law Committee chair Kathleen Hoezel, a Hudson Republican, said the bill is likely to die in the house after her committee voted 15-3 that it is “inexpedient to legislate.” “If you’re incarcerated as a felon, you’re not allowed to vote,” Hoezel said Friday. “The feeling was, ‘Keep your nose clean so you can vote.'”
She said there were also questions about how it would be implemented and a possible clash with the state’s domicile voter registration law that allows voters to register wherever they can prove they’re living on election day. “You don’t want to pass something that is not a good bill – fully vetted – and there are still so many unanswered questions.”