The state Senate in a 14-9 party-line vote on Wednesday passed HB 372, establishing a new definition of residency that the bill’s supporters hope will pass legal muster and set the stage for enforcement of the bill’s purpose statement: “A person must be a resident of New Hampshire to vote or hold office in New Hampshire.” The bill was substantially changed from the version that passed the House last year, and will have to go back to the House as amended by the Senate. The House version contained only the change in definition. The purpose statement was added by the Senate.
If the House agrees with the Senate changes, the bill heads to Gov. Chris Sununu, who has expressed concern about the potential for voter suppression.
“My position has not changed,” Sununu said Wednesday. “I remain opposed to HB 372 as it is currently written.”
The current definition of residency in state law contains the phrase “for the indefinite future,” which the state Supreme Court ruled in 2015 was an unacceptable burden for voting purposes. HB 372 strikes that phrase from the definition in the hope of surviving the inevitable court challenges the bill will face if it is signed into law.