A proposal to change New Hampshire’s residency laws as a way to tighten voting eligibility drew hours of testimony, most of it in opposition, before the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee on Thursday. The original venue for the hearing wasn’t nearly large enough to hold everyone who wanted to testify. People packed into the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs committee room like sardines, with more overflowing down the hall. At one point, a security officer was called in to keep the crowd under control. Initially, Sen. Regina Birdsell, the election law committee chair, tried to go forward with the hearing without relocating because it didn’t seem like an alternative space was available. But it wasn’t long before her colleague, Democratic Senator Jeff Woodburn, objected.
“Madame Chair, I move that we recess until we find a room that will accommodate the people who came to a public hearing and want to be heard,” Woodburn said, pounding the table for emphasis as cheers erupted from activists around the room.
After some scrambling by Senate staffers, the hearing was eventually moved to a larger space.
The proposal at the center of it all, House Bill 1264, would remove just four words — “for the indefinite future” — from the law defining who counts as a New Hampshire resident. A separate but similarly controversial proposal, House Bill 372, also aims to remove the same words in the same statute.