Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NH Governor Vetoes Voter ID Bill

NH Governor John Lynch has vetoed a bill that would force voters to show photo ID at the polls, before being allowed to cast their vote. From Reuters:
"An eligible voter who goes to the polls to vote on Election Day should be able to have his or her vote count on Election Day," said Lynch, a Democrat, in his veto message.
"SB 129 creates a real risk that New Hampshire voters will be denied their right to vote," he said, adding the state has consistently high voter turnout, no voter fraud problem and strong election laws already in place.

One of the bill's sponsors, state Senator Jack Barnes had this to say:
"I feel that there are people up here (in New Hampshire) voting that don't belong up here," said Barnes, adding that his phone rang "off the hook" with constituent support for the measure.

Therein lies the problem. Senator Barnes may "feel" that there are people voting in NH who shouldn't be, but his feelings aren't facts. The last documented case of voter fraud in NH involved a teenaged boy using his father's ID to vote Republican. Despite the myth of "busloads of people coming to vote in NH elections," there are no photos of these buses. There are no videos of these voters. There are no complaints to the Secretary of State.

The photo identification must be issued by the United States or by New Hampshire or be a valid state driver's license, according to the bill.
Voters could get a voucher to cover the $10 cost of a non-drivers identification under the legislation.

No word on who will be paying for these ID vouchers. For some people who live in rural counties, a visit to the DMV for a non-driver ID would mean taking a day off from work, because of the distance.

Voters who did not have proper ID, could cast a provisional ballot, and come back to a government official within 2.5 days to show photo ID. Of course by then, the votes will have been counted and the election decided, so that provisional vote is meaningless.

A rather pointed editorial about what's behind this legislation, from the Nashua Telegraph:

We should be wary of enacting any law that makes it more difficult for some people to exercise their right to vote. And until we have some actual proof that voter fraud exists at any measurable level in New Hampshire, let’s call this bill what it is: a solution that is far worse than the problem.

Either way, we can’t help but wonder: Are some legislators using baseless allegations of fraud to make voting difficult enough that some people won’t even try?

It seems clear that the bill is aimed at disenfranchising low income, student, and elderly voters. NH learned earlier this year what Speaker O'Brien thinks about college students voting:

New Hampshire's new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They're "foolish," Speaker William O'Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.

'Foolish' college kids 'just vote their feelings,' New Hampshire speaker says
"Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack "life experience," and "they just vote their feelings."

Governor Lynch's entire statement on the veto makes the case:

Seniors, students, those who are disabled or do not drive, and those who do not already have a state-issued or federal-issued photo ID, may not be able to arrange to obtain a valid photo ID within the tight 2 ½ day timeframe. Many town offices are closed or have only limited hours on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when those voters who received a provisional ballot would be expected to return to produce a photo ID and have their vote counted. Voters in areas of the state where DMV offices have been consolidated will also be disadvantaged. Traveling to Concord or Manchester is not an option for everyone. These circumstances will present real hardships, especially for our seniors and disabled voters.

The New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association, AARP, the League of Women Voters, and the Secretary of State have all opposed provisions of this bill. The bill's provisions for the length of time to produce a valid photo ID after an election and the types of photo IDs allowed are among the most restrictive voter identification provisions in the nation despite any evidence that current law is insufficient protection against voter fraud.

The NH legislature is solving a non-existant problem, in order to ensure fewer voters participate in our elections. The pressure to override the veto is high, but it may not be enough. A number of legislators are quite aware that this will cost their municipalities plenty, and further reduce their chances of reelection.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

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