Monday’s ruling in Hillsborough County Superior Court that Senate Bill 3 won’t be in effect for the Nov. 6 general election is good news for Granite State voting rights.
Judge Kenneth Brown issued an injunction in the case, barring the Secretary of State’s Office from using the cumbersome registration forms in the upcoming election for those who register to vote at the polls or within 30 days of voting. “Cumbersome” is our word for it — along with confusing and intimidating — but Brown clearly agreed, stating: “SB 3’s forms are drafted in a manner that makes them confusing, hard to navigate and comply with, and difficult to complete in a timely manner.”
The 2017 law, passed along party lines and signed by Gov. Chris Sununu, would revoke the simple affidavit now signed by voters who register at the polls to vow they are actual Granite State residents — replacing it with a far longer, threatening and legally confusing two-part form.
At a hearing in the case, students testified they were intimidated and confused by the forms, not knowing what address to put down, because their mail isn’t actually sent to their physical address — it goes to a college mailbox — but the forms specifically state a follow-up letter will be mailed to the address where they actually live.
Elections officials spoke of how difficult the forms will be for their staffs on Election Day, and how long the voting lines might get while voters and those manning the polls work through the lengthy, confusing forms. Brown took note, saying long lines could easily dissuade some voters from waiting, effectively canceling their votes.
He also pointed out SB 3 does nothing whatsoever to secure our elections from the type of fraud its supporters keep alluding to — and which virtually never actually occurs in the state. Anyone intent on voting without presenting proof of residency or domicile can still do so under SB 3. They just have to sign a different, longer and more-intimidating form. So, if there were, as Sununu once alleged before backing off from the claim, busloads of liberals coming to New Hampshire to take advantage of our “lax” voting rules, they’d be just as free to do so under SB 3. By the time the elections officials send out their follow-up notices, and way before the threatened police visits occur, those dastardly frauds would be back in the Bay State, New York or some other Democratic enclave.
Noting college students, the homeless and a few other categories of voter would be particularly affected by the law, and would never get their chance to cast those votes again, if not on Nov. 6, Brown opted to set it aside until the merits of the case are decided for good.
It was the correct call. As a report Sunday by staff writer Jake Lahut indicated, college-age voters — at least those at Keene State College — are confused about their voting rights.
And that’s as intended. SB 3 and its close relative, House Bill 1264, passed last spring and signed by Sununu after vowing he’d “never do anything to suppress the student vote in New Hampshire,” aren’t meant to ensure integrity. As Brown’s analysis indicates, they would do nothing to stop the type of fraud Sununu and legislative leaders have warned about — the type that never actually happens. Instead they’re meant to make college students, the homeless and transient residents nervous about voting.
In other words, they’re meant to suppress the vote without ever having to turn anyone away.
Brown’s injunction makes it easy, then, to explain your voting rights two weeks from today:
If you live in New Hampshire more often than not, are at least 18 and want to vote, you can register before Nov. 6 or at the polls. You don’t have to register your car, nor get a special ID from the state or your town clerk. No one will be sending the police looking for you and you won’t have to read pages of legalese before casting your vote.
If you have a driver’s license or other state ID, that’s great. If not, you must be willing to sign an affidavit swearing who you are and that you’re a citizen, a resident and of legal age.
So don’t be confused or intimidated. Have your say. It’s your right. For now.