A fiercely contested bill to make residency a condition of voting in New Hampshire was determined by the state Supreme Court to be constitutional Thursday, in a major ruling that clears its approval by Gov. Chris Sununu. In a 3-2 ruling, the court found that the bill, House Bill 1264, is not a burden on the right to vote, but rather a means to better organize state laws “in order to place voters and residents on equal footing as New Hampshire citizens.” The court’s decision, which came without warning, now sets up a high-stakes choice for Sununu. On Thursday afternoon, hours after the court weighed in, the bill passed from Senate President Chuck Morse’s desk over to the governor’s office. That set in motion a constitutionally mandated five-day countdown; Sununu must decide by Tuesday whether to veto, sign or let pass without signature a law he has taken varying positions on in the last seven months. In a terse statement Thursday, Sununu declined to show his cards.
“We appreciate the time and consideration given to this matter by the New Hampshire Supreme Court and are reviewing their decision,” he said.
The law represents a simple linguistic change that to supporters and detractors could have vast effects.
Currently, people voting in New Hampshire need only demonstrate that they are domiciled in the state, a status that requires voters count New Hampshire as their place of residence “more than any other place,” but which doesn’t carry the requirements of residency. HB 1264 would merge the definitions of “residency” and “domicile” in New Hampshire law, effectively making anyone who casts a ballot in an election a de facto resident.