The next statewide elections are more than a year away, but, already, the battle over how New Hampshire voters cast their ballots is well underway. This week will see a court hearing for two lawsuits challenging a controversial new voting law, which just went into effect on Friday. That law, in turn, could have its first test tomorrow in Laconia, where voters head to the polls for a House special election. Then there’s the Trump administration’s voting commission, which meets tomorrow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and, since its inception, has fanned competing choruses about voter fraud and voter suppression. All of this happens against the backdrop of New Hampshire’s role as a new kind of political battleground — the fight over who gets to vote, and how.
To some extent, these kinds of debates are nothing new. New Hampshire, with its outsized role in as the first-in-the-nation primary and its swing state status, has seen any number of battles over voting laws: college students’ eligibility, photo ID, residency requirements, the list goes on.
But something’s different, lately. Just ask the guy who’s been in the middle of these debates for the last forty years: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. “I mean, you didn’t get the level of anxiety that’s created,” Gardner said. “And the groups, people being paid to come here, to take a certain position.”
What Gardner’s talking about is the way that election law is increasingly becoming just another partisan political issue – and one that comes with its own competing set of outside political groups, zeroing in on New Hampshire as a battleground for swaying public opinion.