A New Hampshire law that will make residency a condition of voting in the state unconstitutionally restricts students’ right to vote, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday in a lawsuit. Under current law, New Hampshire is the only state that doesn’t require residency. The federal lawsuit filed against Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was brought on behalf of two Dartmouth College students. They say the law, which takes effect July 1, burdens their right to vote by requiring new voters to shift their home state driver’s licenses and registrations to New Hampshire. “Under this law, I have to pay to change my California license to be a New Hampshire one,” one of the students, Maggie Flaherty, said in a statement. “If I vote and don’t change my license within 60 days, I could even be charged with a misdemeanor offense with up to one year in jail.
New Hampshire: Democrats denied access to voter database in lawsuit over election law | Union Leader
The state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Secretary of State does not have provide a detailed voter database to the N.H. Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 3, the new law on voter verification. A lower court had ordered release of the database to the plaintiffs, who claimed they needed certain information from it to make their case. “We conclude that the database is exempt from disclosure by statute, and we therefore vacate the trial court’s order,” states the unanimous order of the five justices.
The first public hearings on two bills that would effectively repeal two controversial laws that many Democrats view as voter suppression measures filled a double committee room at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday. Outside the packed third-floor room, supporters waved signs saying, “Restore Voting Rights” and “Granite Stater, Granite Voter” as elected officials, citizens and lobbyists took turns telling members of the House Election Law Committee why they should either back House Bills 105 and 106 or deep six them both. Rep. Timothy Horrigan, D-Durham, who co-sponsored both bills, said they are important to his constituents because of the University of New Hampshire where he believes students will be unduly impacted by having to pay fees for licenses and car registrations to prove residency.
Newly empowered Democrats are hoping to reverse two recent changes to New Hampshire’s election laws before either fully takes effect. One new law, requiring voters to provide more documentation if they register within 30 days of an election, remains tied up in court. The other, which ends the distinction between full-fledged residents and those claiming the state as their domicile for voting, takes effect July 1. Both passed under Republican-led Legislatures, but Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate in November, and they are drafting bills to essentially repeal both changes. “I’m trying to put things back the way they were before,” said Rep. Timothy Horrigan, who is sponsoring both bills.
A lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday alleges Michigan’s election laws purposefully try to confuse and disenfranchise young, college-aged voters. College Democrats at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Bureau of Elections Director Sally Williams claiming the state’s youngest voters are “particularly vulnerable to restrictive voting laws and uniquely susceptible to voter confusion.” The suit claims Michigan’s laws violate the First, Fourteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and will presumably seek relief from these two come Nov. 6: “Rogers’ Law,” which requires a citizen vote where their driver’s license lists their address, as well as a law requiring first-time voters to vote in person, meaning they can’t participate in early or absentee voting.
More than a dozen lawyers are setting up shop in the Hillsborough Superior Court-North in Manchester for the next two weeks for the preliminary injunction hearing on the controversial voter residency law commonly known as SB 3. Judge Kenneth Brown is being asked to stop the law from taking effect until after the lawsuit against the state — brought by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, and some individual voters — is decided in court. This could mean the law, which critics claim will dampen college voter turnout, will not be in effect for the November midterm election. Numerous witnesses are expected to testify, and the state is seeking to dig into the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s budget as part of the proceedings. Lucas Meyer, the president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, testified Monday the state party has budgeted $150,000 to $250,000 for voter education in the wake of SB 3’s passage.
New Hampshire: State makes it tougher for students to vote. Democrats call it ‘devious’ suppression. | NBC
New Hampshire Democrats are hoping to turn the November midterm elections into a referendum on a new law barring part-time residents from voting in the state. Last week, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signed into law House Bill 1264, requiring students and other part-time residents to become permanent residents of the state if they want to vote. Currently, students must show they are “domiciled” in the state when they register to vote. The new law will force permanent residents to comply with laws such as state motor vehicle registration. Students with cars, for example, would have to pay for a new, in-state driver’s license and register their cars in the state, a cost critics argue could deter the historically Democratic voting bloc from the ballot box. “It’s a poll tax,” said Garrett Muscatel, a Dartmouth College student and candidate for state representative.
Editorials: New Hampshire’s new poll tax: Just because a law is deemed constitutional doesn’t make it right | Keene Sentinel
Armed with a Supreme Court opinion, Gov. Chris Sununu quickly signed into law House Bill 1264 Friday, much to the consternation of those opposed to the voter-obstruction attempt. The new law is a bad one, regardless of what a 3-2 majority of the court found. It’s a cynical attempt to throw hurdles in front of those attending New Hampshire colleges, but who hail from out of state, and little more. That doesn’t mean it will affect only those students; other groups will also soon find themselves burdened with having to produce a state driver’s license or auto registration in order to cast New Hampshire ballots. They include military personnel stationed here; seasonal workers or those on temporary assignment; per-diem nurses and other fill-in health workers; and anyone rightfully living in the state while on a contract. As the court’s majority itself noted, even a town or city manager serving a limited term might be deemed “not a resident” and therefore not eligible to vote if he or she didn’t profess an intent to remain in the state permanently.
On Friday, New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu transformed his state into ground zero in the assault on voting rights. By signing HB 1264 into law, Sununu effectively imposed a poll tax on college students, compelling many of them to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to establish residence in the state before they’re permitted to vote in New Hampshire. Once it takes effect, the law is almost certain to chill the franchise of younger Democratic-leaning voters—to an extent that could swing the state’s famously close elections. But the measure’s stringent new requirements do not kick in until July 2019, giving Democrats a single opportunity to repeal it before it disenfranchises a key portion of their base. In New Hampshire, the November midterm elections won’t just determine control of the state government. It will decide whether Republicans will be successful in their years-long quest to suppress the college vote, a move that would help them further entrench their own political power. HB 1264 is the latest and most sweeping voter suppression bill passed by New Hampshire Republicans in the wake of the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton carried the state by a slim margin, as did Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte by about 1,000 votes. At the same time, Republicans retook the governorship and maintained control of the Legislature, giving them total control of the state government. They used that power to begin restricting access to the ballot under the pretext of preventing voter fraud.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu reversed course Friday and signed a bill imposing residency requirements on out-of-state college students who vote in New Hampshire. Current law allows students and others who consider the state their domicile to vote without being subject to residency requirements, such as getting a New Hampshire driver’s license or registering their cars. Lawmakers passed a bill this year to end the distinction between domicile and residency, but Sununu delayed action on it and asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in. The court issued a 3-2 advisory opinion Thursday saying the bill was constitutional. “House Bill 1264 restores equality and fairness to our elections,” Sununu said. “Finally, every person who votes in New Hampshire will be treated the same. This is the essence of an equal right to vote.”
New Hampshire: State Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of voter residency bill | Concord Monitor
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.
Gov. Rick Scott’s administration fired back in federal court Friday, seeking to undercut a League of Women Voters lawsuit over early voting on college campuses. The League last month sued Scott’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, whose office in 2014 interpreted state law to exclude state university buildings from a list of sites available for early voting. Florida allows early voting at elections offices, city halls, libraries, fairgrounds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, convention centers, government-owned senior centers and government-owned community centers. But buildings on state college and university campuses? No. Democrats tried to include them as early voting sites, but Republicans blocked the proposal.
A long-running court dispute over a controversial election reform law just got longer with the presiding judge deciding Friday to disqualify himself due to a close, personal relationship with one of the state’s lawyers. The ruling throws yet another controversy at this court battle pitting the League of Women Voters and the New Hampshire Democratic Party against Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who is defending a law meant to require voters show proof at the polls or after the election that they actually live or are domiciled in New Hampshire. Critics maintain the law known as SB 3 is meant to discourage college students, low-income and minority citizens from taking advantage of New Hampshire’s easy requirements to cast a ballot in the state.
State leaders want to stop three college professors from testifying in the SB 3 lawsuit, and protect two state attorneys from having to give testimony, in ongoing litigation over the law aimed at halting voter fraud. In motions filed with the Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua, attorneys for New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office ask the court to keep the three professors from testifying. The state is being sued by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, and individual voters of SB 3, which introduced possible criminal penalties for people who register to vote on election day, but fail to file all the newly required paperwork within a given time period. The plaintiffs claim the law is aimed at keeping college students, and the poor from registering to vote in New Hampshire.
Ten individuals or groups have weighed in as the New Hampshire Supreme Court decides whether to consider the constitutionality of ending the state’s distinction between full-fledged residents and those who claim the state as their domicile in order to vote. Current law allows college students and others who say they are domiciled in New Hampshire to vote without being official residents subject to residency requirements, such as getting a New Hampshire driver’s license or registering a vehicle. The Legislature sent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu a bill last week to align the definitions of domicile and residency, but he wants the court to clarify whether doing so would be constitutional.
New Hampshire: Court could decline Gov. Sununu’s request to give advisory opinion on new election law | Union Leader
Gov. Chris Sununu is preparing to ask the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on a controversial new election law, but the court has dodged such questions in the recent past. The governor announced on Tuesday that he plans to bring a late item to the Executive Council today asking the council to adopt a resolution regarding HB 1264, the bill defining residency as a condition for voting. Supporters say the bill will help ensure that only New Hampshire residents vote in state elections, while opponents say it will suppress the vote of college students and others living in the state on a temporary basis, but still entitled to vote here. The bill has cleared the House and Senate, and is awaiting Sununu’s signature.
Gov. Chris Sununu says he still has deep concerns over a bill to make voting an effective declaration of residency. But resolving them could come down to the state Supreme Court. In a late agenda item submitted ahead of Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, Sununu requested that the court weigh in on the constitutionality of House Bill 1264, a proposal to merge the definitions of “domicile” and “residency” for the purposes of voting. The move, anticipated last week, would ask that the court weigh in on whether the controversial bill would violate the state or federal constitutions. But it will need Executive Council approval to move ahead to the Supreme Court clerk’s desk.
New Hampshire: Voter residency bill clears House; Sununu calls for constitutional review | Concord Monitor
A bill merging the definitions of “resident” and “domiciled” person for voting purposes is heading to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk after a House vote Thursday, but the governor wants to send it to the courts to review its legality. In a 182-156 vote, the House voted to concur with the final version of House Bill 1264, sending the bill into the enrollment process and setting up a tough political ultimatum for Sununu. The bill, which would effectively make voting in New Hampshire a declaration of residency, has been praised by supporters as a means to clarify New Hampshire’s law and bring it into line with other states. But critics have said that incorporating residency into the voting process could impose eventual car registration costs that could act as a “poll tax” and deter some from the polls. In a secretly recorded video released in December, Sununu appeared to share those concerns, telling a young activist that he “hated” the bill and raising worries that it could suppress the vote and be found unconstitutional in the courts.
California: Voter fraud conviction inspires bill loosening oversight of lawmaker residency | The Sacramento Bee
Four years ago, Rod Wright resigned from the California Senate and served 71 minutes in jail after being convicted of eight felonies, including perjury and voter fraud, for living outside the district where he ran for office. Wright argued that he had done everything necessary to establish as his legal “domicile” an Inglewood home that he owned and where he registered to vote. But using photos of another house in the upscale neighborhood of Baldwin Hills, with his Maserati parked in front and closets full of his clothes, Los Angeles County prosecutors convinced a jury that Wright actually lived several miles away. The conviction upset many of Wright’s colleagues, who point out that the definition of a “domicile,” which establishes the eligibility of someone to run for a particular legislative seat, does not include the word “live” anywhere in it: “that place in which his or her habitation is fixed, wherein the person has the intention of remaining, and to which, whenever he or she is absent, the person has the intention of returning.”
New Hampshire: Senate approves second voter residency bill of session; Sununu support uncertain | Concord Monitor
The New Hampshire Senate approved the second bill of the session intended to equate voting in the state with residency, acting on party-lines despite lingering uncertainty over the governor’s support. House Bill 1264, which passed, 14-10, is near-exact replica of an earlier bill, House Bill 372, dealing with the definition of residency. Both bills would merge the meaning of the words “domiciled” person and “resident” for the purposes of election law, effectively turning those who vote into de facto residents. Republican supporters have said that the bills would bring New Hampshire in line with all other states, which require residency in order to vote. Democrats have fiercely opposed the move, saying it would target college students who for years have been regarded “domiciled” in New Hampshire and allowed to vote here, but are not fully residents. Merging the definitions could require college students and other temporary workers to register their vehicles in the state after voting, a change critics have labeled a “poll tax.”
New Hampshire: No plan to enforce residency requirement for voting, even if it passes Legislature | Union Leader
As the state draws closer to enacting a residency requirement for voting, one question remains unanswered: How would the obligation to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and vehicle registration after voting be enforced? No one seems to know. The Secretary of State’s office says “check with the Division of Motor Vehicles,” while the DMV says, not our problem. More precisely, here’s what David Scanlan, the deputy secretary of state for elections, had to say when asked how the state would verify that non-residents followed the law after declaring themselves as New Hampshire residents for the purpose of voting.
New Hampshire: Senate election law committee greenlights domicile voting bill along party lines | Concord Monitor
One of two controversial bills to change the definition of “domicile” for voting purposes cleared a Senate committee Tuesday, heading to the Senate floor next for a make-or-break vote. In a 3-2, party-line vote, members of the Senate election law committee voted to recommend the bill, House Bill 1264, be passed by the full chamber. The bill would merge the definitions of “domiciled” people and “residents” for the purpose of voting, which supporters say will clear up confusion and bring New Hampshire’s process in line with other states. Democrats and other critics, meanwhile, say that combining the definitions will require those who vote to be residents, subjecting college students and other temporary residents to car registration fees and driver’s license requirements. Currently, voters are required only to be “domiciled,” meaning they spend a majority of their time in the state; adding residency could create a de facto poll tax in registration fees, critics allege.
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.
Dartmouth College students and Hanover’s town clerk joined scores of New Hampshire voters and advocates on Tuesday to testify on HB 1264, a bill that has sparked controversy over claims that it would tie motor registration fees and other obligations associated with residency to participation in elections. A simple proposed tweak to the state’s definition of a legal resident has fueled a debate over the merits of voting by students who grew up out-of-state but now attend college in New Hampshire. Advocates say the measure would simplify statutory terms and protect the integrity of elections, whereas opponents call it a “poll tax” that would suppress the vote through unnecessary fees.
Editorials: If you can’t beat your opponent, disqualify him: Residency questioned in some North Carolina legislative races | Colin Campbell/News & Observer
A hot new trend is sweeping North Carolina campaigns this year: Trying to get your opponents disqualified and kicked off the ballot before Election Day. I’m surprised this tactic hasn’t been used heavily before. Why go to the trouble to raise money and campaign on issues when you could just knock out the other candidate on a technicality and run unopposed? These sort of complaints filed with elections boards aren’t new, but there have been at least a dozen or so this year (the state elections board doesn’t have an exact figure) — far more than past cycles. The majority are residency challenges — complaints that a candidate doesn’t actually live in the district where he or she is running for office. Normally, the state constitution requires candidates to live in their district for at least a year before Election Day. But a redistricting lawsuit has prompted last-minute changes in legislative district lines, so the courts dropped that requirement for this year.
New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled Legislature is again considering measures that would affect voter registration and the casting of ballots, even though the most recent change to the state’s election law remains in limbo in court. Under a law that took effect last year, voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election are required to provide proof that they intend to stay. But after Democrats and the League of Women Voters sued, a judge blocked penalties included in the law and said further hearings are necessary. Meanwhile, Republicans are pressing ahead with legislation they argue will help restore confidence in elections and prevent fraud, while opponents say the goal is to prevent certain groups of people from voting.
A bill that redefines the state’s residency standards passed the Senate with Republican support — despite opposition from Gov. Chris Sununu — and is heading back to the House for further review. The latest version of HB372 says that to be considered a resident, for voting or otherwise, someone needs to demonstrate an intent to…
New Hampshire: State Senate OK’s residency definition for voting; Sununu remains opposed | Union Leader
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.
Gov. Chris Sununu said he would “never support” any legislation that could potentially curtail college students’ ability to vote in New Hampshire. Last week, Sununu said he “hates” HB 372, which would tighten the legal definitions of a resident, inhabitant and residence or residency by eliminating the language in the law that considers residents domiciled in the state if they have demonstrated they will be staying in New Hampshire “for the indefinite future.” “I’m not a fan. I hope that the Legislature kills it,” Sununu said to Ben Kremer of the New Hampshire Youth Movement in a video posted to YouTube. “I will never support anything that suppresses the student right to vote.”
Gov. Chris Sununu remained opposed to a new Republican voting reform bill Wednesday following a meeting with the leading proponent of the controversial measure, a spokesman told WMUR. Sununu met with state Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, who chairs the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee, to discuss Birdsell’s amendment to House Bill 372, which would essentially require someone to be a resident of the state, as opposed to someone who is merely domiciled in the state, in order to vote or run for office. The bill makes the change by changing definitions to make the terms “resident,” “inhabitant” and “domicile” consistent. The bill would change the eligibility requirements for voting and running for office in the state and would mean that students and others who claim New Hampshire as a domicile but are residents of other states could no longer vote in New Hampshire.