Twin lawsuits brought by the New Hampshire Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters challenge the state’s new voter registration law, claiming it aims to suppress the votes of young people.
The measure, signed last month by Gov. Chris Sununu (pictured), may be the strictest voting law passed this year. It requires people registering to vote to show documentary proof that they live in New Hampshire. Those without such proof must sign an affidavit promising to provide it within ten days. If they don’t provide it, they’ll be subject to an investigation, which could include having state officials sent to their homes and being fined $5,000.
Republican supporters of the law have said it’s needed to prevent non-residents from voting in New Hampshire, though they’ve offered no evidence that this happens on a significant scale. President Donald Trump has falsely said both he and former senator Kelly Ayotte would have won the state last fall were it not for illegal out-of-state voters.
The League of Women voters lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state court, alleges that the controversial law “was passed with the purpose of suppressing the vote of young people — specifically, college students, who are more likely than others to have difficulty producing the requisite documentation in the time frames required.”
Voting rights advocates say the law takes particular aim at same-day voter registration, which is especially popular among college students, who tend to move frequently and therefore need to re-register each time, and who often have trouble producing proof of residence. College students are a key component of the Democratic base in the state.
New Hampshire is one of six states that allow people to register and vote on the same day.
The lengthy and confusing affidavit that those without proof of residence must sign says the voter must take a “verifiable act” to demonstrate proof of residence in New Hampshire, but doesn’t list which acts qualify. The result, voting advocates fear, will be to intimidate some people out of voting at all, and to cause delays at polling places with large student populations.
The Democratic Party lawsuit is being led by Marc Elias, a top Democratic election lawyer who worked with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The League of Women Voters suit names as defendants Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald. Gardner, a Democrat and a member of the White House voting commission, supported the law and over the years has helped raised fears about out-of-state voters.
“Senate Bill 3, like any statute, is presumed to be constitutional, the Department of Justice will defend it vigorously, and we are confident it will be sustained,” MacDonald said in a statement.