Voter ID Standoff Threatens New Hampshire’s Proud Turnout Record

Voter ID Standoff Threatens New Hampshire’s Proud Turnout Record

Voter ID Standoff Threatens New Hampshire’s Proud Turnout Record

After a year of standing ground, the governor warms up to voter ID—but still vetoes bill that would have affected the voting rights of eligible students and African Americans.

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New Hampshire is notable for its high voter turnout, second only to Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 2008 elections, according to the US Elections Project at George Mason University. For a year, Governor John Lynch has tried to protect that legacy against the legislature’s attempt to pass a voter ID bill. He now appears ready to concede the point—if only the legislature would let him.

This week, Lynch was ready to compromise and sign off on a bill. But the version the state’s legislature presented was so excessively restrictive he vetoed the legislation Wednesday. Lawmakers are now preparing to vote on whether to override the governor’s veto on June 27.

It’s not the first time Lynch has vetoed a voter ID bill, and not the first time the legislature has threatened to overturn his decision. Last June, the governor vetoed a bill and declared that any eligible voter shouldn’t be denied the right to vote. Three months later, legislators attempted, but failed, to override the veto.

But something’s changed in the meantime. While Lynch was prepared to protect every person’s right to vote just one year ago, he’s now moved towards the idea that voters should present some form of identification in order to participate at the ballot box. The distinction between Lynch’s position and that of the state’s legislators is what kind of ID should be required.

Lynch now says that lawmakers went too far when they restricted the types of identification cards that could be used beginning in 2013. The bill allowed that student IDs, municipal, county and state IDs and any other identification deemed appropriate by election supervisors could be used in the upcoming September state primary, but only a valid driver’s license (or other card issued by the motor vehicles department), US passport or armed services ID could be used in future elections.

The bill is meant to restrict state government employees who use their governmental IDs. Aside from negatively impacting student voters, the bill would also have taken its toll on African-Americans, who are over-represented in municipal, county and state jobs.

We’ll keep you posted on whether the state’s legislature overrides the veto. If the House and Senate find two-thirds support, we’ll also keep a watch on the lawsuits that are sure to follow.

Tell It to the Judge 
Speaking of lawsuits, a panel of judges heard arguments from both sides Thursday in one of several suits filed over Florida’s voter suppression attempt. The Department of Justice contends changes to Florida’s voting laws are in violation of the Voting Rights Act, in part because the new rules revoke voting the Sunday before Election Day. Church-going blacks have historically participated in “Souls to the Polls” on that particular Sunday, and Latinos have joined as well. Canceling voting that day will likely see a drop in participation from people of color. The state of Florida, meanwhile, argued that the rule changes are perfectly legal and will not affect voter turnout.

Not on Our Dime, Says St. Paul
And finally, the City of St. Paul filed an amicus brief in Minnesota’s Supreme Court this week, challenging a voter ID ballot measure this fall. Mayor Chris Coleman said more than 6,000 students, veterans and senior citizen voters would be impacted in St. Paul alone. The brief states that if voters pass a constitutional amendment, the city would be compelled to absorb the cost of “implementing voting programs.” It would also create confusion for election officials. The court will hear arguments in the case July 17.

—Aura Bogado

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