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.
Now, as the bill works its way through the final process to Sununu’s desk, the governor faces a decision. A spokesman for Sununu, Ben Vihstadt, said Thursday that the governor remains opposed to the bill and a bill that mirrors it, House Bill 372. But he stopped short of declaring an intention to veto the bill.
In the meantime, Sununu is seeking opinion from a different source: the judicial branch. The governor “believes that the bills should undergo a strict review by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in order to determine any potential unintended consequences,” Vihstadt said.