House Bill 1594 is headed for a vote in the Senate Thursday. (Stephen Maturen | Getty Images)
The Senate is set to pass a bill on Thursday aimed at helping students with disabilities register to vote.
House Bill 1594 proposes to do that by including voter registration in a student’s plan of study for those students who are already following an individualized education program. Rep. Mark Paige, an Exeter Democrat and the bill’s prime sponsor, said it uses a framework that is already in place for students with disabilities to ensure voter registration is addressed before graduation.
Supporters say the bill is needed because students with disabilities may pursue a separate curriculum from their peers, and could miss civics education and feel unwelcome from participating in civic society.
Students who have disabilities may not know whether a polling place is accessible, Liz Tentarelli, president of the League of Women Voters New Hampshire, told lawmakers in the Senate Education Committee during a public hearing this month. And they might be unaware that assistance is available to help people with low-grade vision use voting machines or fill out a paper ballot, Tentarelli added. The League of Women Voters supports the bill as a measure that could encourage young people to vote.
The bill also has the support of the Disability Rights Center, ABLE NH, and at least one educator. At a hearing this month, 91 people registered in support of the bill and three in opposition.
The bill has received bipartisan support in both House and Senate committees. The Senate Education Committee unanimously recommended the bill pass into law and put it on the consent calendar for Thursday, which means it could pass the Senate floor without debate.
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