Lawmakers and others were celebrating the override of Gov. John Lynch’s veto of the photo identification bill, but the celebration may have come a little too early. The pending law must be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice because any significant changes in state election laws — and requiring photo identification is a significant change — have to be reviewed. New Hampshire — the only Northern state affected — and 15 other states are subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which seeks to eliminate discriminatory voting practices that bar or hinder voting by minorities. New Hampshire was snagged in the 1968 presidential election when 10 towns were identified with less than 50 percent of adults voting in the a presidential election, a violation of the act.
The new law needs “preclearance” by the feds before it can be implemented. The Department of Justice has 60 days to make its determination, which could mean the decision comes a couple of weeks before the Sept. 11 primary. The pending law was sent to the federal agency last week after the override. The bill has essentially two photo identification procedures: one for this year’s elections (the Senate version) and much more restrictive procedures for elections after September 2013 (the House version).
Some wonder whether the DOJ will give a split decision by okaying this year’s procedures but not those for future elections. Nobody believes the DOJ will simply approve the new law. The department has already found several state photo identification laws in violation of the Voting Rights Act.