On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump’s “election integrity” commission was preparing to meet in New Hampshire when a state court issued a major ruling: New Hampshire’s harsh new voting restrictions, which would impose fines and jail time on voters who fail to provide certain documentation, cannot be enforced in Tuesday’s special election. According to the court, the law’s penalties likely violate the state constitution, which guarantees all adult residents “an equal right to vote in any election.” The court’s order constituted an oblique rebuke to the commission’s very purpose. New Hampshire’s GOP-controlled legislature passed its voter suppression law in response to Trump’s allegations that mass voter fraud swung the state against him in 2016. Trump formed his voter fraud commission to prove that such fraud gave his opponent millions of illegal votes in the Granite State and beyond. Just last week, commision co-chair Kris Kobach claimed he had “proof” that votes were stolen in the state. Now a court has examined the evidence—and found no such proof. The decision is a well-timed reminder that this administration’s wild claims of voter fraud cannot stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.
SB 3, the New Hampshire law at issue, was designed from the start to intimidate voters so severely that some decide it is not worth the trouble to cast a ballot. Its sponsor, Republican Sen. Regina Birdsell, asserted that college students and “people coming over the border” from Massachusetts are swinging state elections—almost exactly what Trump has alleged. Her bill took aim at same-day registration, a long-standing tradition in New Hampshire and a perennial target of Republicans who maintain that it is susceptible to fraud. (In reality, the GOP’s fixation is probably due to the fact that many same-day registrants are college students who lean Democratic.)
Although SB 3 did not eliminate same-day voting, it did make registration significantly more onerous—and risky. Under the law, those who register to vote within 30 days of an election, including on Election Day, must provide proof of their New Hampshire “domicile.” If they forgot to bring such proof, they can still register, but they must submit the necessary documentation no more than 10 days after the election. (Residents have 30 days to submit their documents in towns where the clerk’s offices are open part-time.) If voters fail to provide this documentation within the time limit, they are subject to $5,000 fines and up to one year in jail.