A trial is tentatively set for February 2014 to decide whether New Hampshire will be allowed to use controversial language on its voter registration forms that was previously blocked by a judge. With last year’s general election approaching, Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from using new voter registration forms that included a paragraph discussing motor vehicle and residency requirements. Under state law, voters aren’t required to be permanent residents of New Hampshire to cast ballots here. Anyone who maintains a “domicile” in the state is eligible to vote in New Hampshire, including college students. However, Republican lawmakers enacted changes in 2012 that were intended to require anyone who chooses to vote in New Hampshire to also become a resident, falling under the purview of motor vehicle laws.
The voter registration law was challenged by four college students, who filed a lawsuit against the state in Strafford County Superior Court. They were represented by the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lewis sided with the plaintiffs last year, calling the new wording an “inaccurate and confusing expression of the law” that “does not pass constitutional muster.”
Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House passed a bill this year that sought to revise the voter registration law, in light of Lewis’ ruling, but the full Legislature failed to reach agreement on the issue.
With election season over, and the controversial law still on the books, the state attorney general’s office and an attorney representing the four college students met in a Dover courtroom Wednesday to begin discussing the final resolution of the lawsuit. Lewis tentatively scheduled a two-day trial for early February 2014. He also ruled that three groups that sought to intervene in the lawsuit will not be allowed to do so, since they failed to show up in court this week.