NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

CANDIDATES

Incumbent Jeanne Shaheen for Senator

APRIL 2020

• New Hampshire: New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and Secretary of State Bill Gardner have released new guidance that effectively waives the state's requirement that voters present an excuse in order to vote absentee this year. The memorandum advises election officials: "Any voter may request an absentee ballot for the September 2020 Primary and November 2020 General Elections based on concerns regarding COVID-19." While a number of states have relaxed their excuse requirements for upcoming primaries, New Hampshire is the first to do so for the November general election.

 

• New Hampshire: On Thursday, a New Hampshire state court struck down a voting restriction Republicans passed in 2017 that imposed new voter residency requirements and made it more difficult for young voters in particular to cast their ballots.

The law in question required voters who registered to vote within 30 days of an election to show additional documentation that they live day-to-day at the residence they claim as their “domicile" and intend to do so long-term. Republicans passed this measure to make voting more difficult for various demographics that lean toward Democrats, such as college students and young adults, who are more likely to move frequently.

Voters who lacked suitable documentation could only cast provisional ballots, which would only count if they could provide documents proving their residency met the law's requirements at a later date. If they didn't, the law empowered state election officials to visit their homes and refer them to the secretary of state’s office for potential investigation, which may have intimidated voters.

Superior Court Judge David Anderson ruled that the law violated the state constitution's guarantee of the right to vote and that backers failed to prove that it was needed to stop alleged voter fraud. Importantly, Anderson noted that although the plaintiffs couldn't conclusively prove that the law had physically prevented any individual from voting, it was nevertheless unconstitutional because it was intimidating and confusing enough that "it discourages [potential voters] from showing up in the first place."

Republicans say they expect to appeal the ruling to New Hampshire's Supreme Court. The court normally has five members, but it's been left in a 2-2 tie between Democratic and Republican appointees with one seat vacant since last year. However, the justices unanimously refused to temporarily block the law shortly before Election Day in 2018 (a legal provision allows the random selection of a retired judge to temporarily fill the current vacancy).

A separate law that the GOP passed in 2018 specifically targeted out-of-state college students with a poll tax by requiring them to obtain official residency in the state, which requires paying for things like a state driver's license and car registration. A federal lawsuit over that piece of legislation is set to go to trial in late May. The case was sent to the state Supreme Court last month so that it could clarify the facts of what the law actually changes before the litigation could proceed further in federal court.

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