The New Hampshire Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a case challenging language that would tie voter registration to motor vehicle laws. A law passed in 2012 sought to amend the state’s voter registration forms that required those registering to vote to also affirm, among other things, that: “In declaring New Hampshire as my domicile, I am subject to the laws of the state of New Hampshire which apply to all residents, including laws requiring a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a New Hampshire’s driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a resident.”
Originally brought against the state by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, the case centers on the question of whether such language is overly confusing and potentially unconstitutional. The lawyers challenging the state have argued that this language could amount to a “poll tax” in the form of fees associated with driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registration, and that it would deter otherwise eligible voters from voting.
On the opposite side, the state’s lawyers have argued that the language doesn’t impose burdensome restrictions. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Labonte, speaking at yesterday’s hearing, argued that the language as a whole is not inaccurate and would not deter someone from exercising their right to vote.
“The language subject to review – when read in its entirety, its entirety – is legally accurate,” Labonte said at the start of yesterday’s hearing.
Chief Justice Linda Dalianis soon interjected to clarify that the state’s definitions of “domiciliary and residence are different.” Labonte acknowledged that the state does have distinct definitions for each status.