The Bulletin Board

House passes ‘affidavit ballot’ legislation

By: - April 21, 2022 3:29 pm
A sign directing voters

Voting rights organizations, including the ACLU of New Hampshire and Open Democracy Action, opposed the bill, which they said would make it harder for people to vote. (Stephen Maturen | Getty Images)

A bill that would create “affidavit ballots” passed the House on Thursday in a 180-154 vote.

If the measure is signed into law, it would change same-day voter registration, but it could face a significant barrier: Gov. Chris Sununu has said he opposes the provisional ballot system, which he said could jeopardize the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. The governor stopped short of saying whether he would veto the bill.  

The version of Senate Bill 418 passed by the House would require people registering to vote for the first time in New Hampshire on Election Day without an ID to use a separate, new kind of ballot – the so-called affidavit ballot. After voting, they would have to mail documentation proving their identity to the Secretary of State’s Office.

If they failed to do so, their votes would be voided – which means the results of the election might not be finalized for up to 14 days after the election, according to the bill.

Republicans in both chambers have backed the bill as a measure to ensure election integrity and close what they call the no-ID loophole, while Democrats have criticized it as voter suppression. “SB 418 is an expensive and complicated solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Rep. Russell Muirhead, a Hanover Democrat, told lawmakers on the House floor Thursday.

And voting rights organizations, including the ACLU of New Hampshire and Open Democracy Action, have also opposed the bill, which they said would make it harder for people to vote.

“New Hampshire Republicans are not afraid of high voter turnout. We just won an election with the highest turnout ever. We’re not afraid of it. What we want to know is that people who are going to the polls are who they say they are,” said Rep. Ross Berry, a Manchester Republican, and the author of the “compromise” amendment that passed the House Thursday. 

Currently, people who don’t have their ID can have their photo taken and sign an affidavit that attests to their identity, and then vote by normal ballot.

Berry’s amendment would also push back the effective date of the measure to 2023. It shortened the deadline from 10 to 7 days for the secretary of state to inform towns which voters failed to provide documentation. 

The bill will now go to the House Finance Committee.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.