Hearing on Controversial N.H. Voting Law SB3 Wraps Up

Sep 10, 2018

A hearing that could decide the fate of the voter registration law known as Senate Bill 3 began Aug. 27 in Manchester and continued for nearly two full weeks, concluding Sept. 7.

(Editor's note: We will be updating this post on a rolling basis throughout the hearing. For more background on the case, click here.)

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and a group of voters who claim they’ll have trouble registering under SB3’s new requirements. The state’s legal team is defending the law, and have argued that none of those parties have shown they’d be directly harmed by the law, nor have they been able to prove that it would prevent anyone from casting a ballot.

The hearing began with opening statements from each side of the case, giving them an opportunity to outline the central arguments they planned to make in the days ahead.

Bruce Spiva, a Washington-based attorney working with the plaintiffs in the case, said SB3 “imposes confusing and onerous rules and procedures to establish domicile that will make it much more difficult for New Hampshire citizens ot exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

“The unjustified hurdles SB3 places in front of the ballot box will disproportionately trap those voters who are young, poor, lacking in educational attainment or who are new to the state or move within the state,” Spiva said.

Additionally, Spiva argued that SB3 was passed under the guise of fixing a problem with voter fraud that doesn’t really exist.

“The severe burdens that SB3 imposes on the right to vote can’t be justified by the phantom and thoroughly discredited claims put forth by some proponents of SB3 about rumors of cars or buses of out-of-state residents who purportedly voted illegally in the 2016 general election,” Spiva said.

On the other side, Assistant Attorney General Anthony Galdieri said that last point was irrelevant to the lawsuit before the court.

“The state and the Legislature do not need actual proof of voter fraud as a predicate to passing election laws,” Galdieri said. “The Legislature can anticipate issues, they can regulate elections.  They have that authority under the Constitution, and the court should keep that in mind when evaluating SB3.”

Galdieri also said SB3 would not bring as sweeping a set of changes to the voting system as the plaintiffs suggest. For one, he said, the state has already conducted “investigations” into people who don’t have the right kind of proof of domicile when registering to vote for years before SB3 was enacted.

He also argued that it would not, as the plaintiffs argue, discourage college students from voting in New Hampshire elections because it specifically allows students to use a document listing their dorm address as a valid form of evidence when registering to vote.

“The plaintiff’s sideshow in this case is that SB3 was passed to discriminate against college students, particularly against college students who live in dormitories,” Galdieri said. “I would suggest, your honor, if that was the aim or the goal of SB3, the Legislature did not do a very good job of it.”

From there, the plaintiffs began calling forward witnesses to testify about the potential impact of the law. Here's a rundown of who's spoken so far. We'll keep updating this as the hearing continues.

Aug. 27

Liz Tentarelli — President of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire

Tentarelli told the court her organization felt it was important to bring the lawsuit against SB3 because of concerns that it would have a “chilling effect” on voter participation.

A significant part of her group’s work focuses on voter education, she said, and the requirements imposed by SB3 are too complicated to clearly convey in the brochures or other materials they distribute to prospective voters. Figuring out how to get the word out about the new requirements has also detracted from their ability to focus on other parts of their mission, like candidate forums, she added.

But an attorney for the state’s side of the case questioned the legitimacy of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire’s role in the lawsuit — pointing out that they were approached by an outside law firm, Perkins Coie, about participating in the case.

The state also noted that the group’s legal bills were being paid by Priorities USA Foundation, a national organization affiliated with a super PAC that bankrolls Democratic campaigns and causes. (The super PAC spent millions of dollars to support President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.)

Under questioning from the state, Tentarelli acknowledged that the national arm of her organization objected to her chapter’s involvement in the lawsuit in part because of concerns about the appearance of partisanship. But in the end, she said concerns about the new voting restrictions ultimately outweighed concerns over funding.

“Our mission is so important to us — to allow voters who want to vote to vote — we felt that overrode any concerns our national organization had about the funders of this,” Tentarelli said.

Lucas Meyer — President of the New Hampshire Young Democrats

Meyer talked about his group’s efforts to oppose SB3 both before and after it passed, citing concerns that the law was designed to make it harder for college students to vote.

Specifically, Meyer said his group viewed the changes SB3 makes to the voter registration forms as “confusing and intimidating for college students.” He also said the complexity of the new forms are likely to slow down the registration process in communities where there are lots of voters who try to register on Election Day — and in New Hampshire, the places with the highest rates of same-day registration are clustered around college campuses.

Meyer told the court SB3 has also impacted his organization’s work around voter outreach and education. For example, he said the New Hampshire Young Democrats hired a new organizing director who is focused largely on “disseminat[ing] information about this new law” on college campuses.

The state challenged the relevancy of Meyer’s testimony, arguing that the New Hampshire Young Democrats were not one of the parties in the case. But the judge said the testimony could be included in light of the fact that the New Hampshire Young Democrats share office space and payroll services with the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which is part of the lawsuit, and that Meyer sits on the executive board of the state party.

Under questioning from the state, Meyer said he wasn’t personally aware of any student who has been prevented from voting because of SB3.

Cathy Kuhn — Director of New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness, Vice President of Research and Training at Families in Transition

Kuhn told the court SB3’s requirements would likely be a burden on people experiencing homelessness or other kinds of housing instability because many people who are in that position lack the documentation they would need to comply with the law.

“Without additional support, someone to help them to remember to send something in or to remember to send something in, I think that would be an additional burden,” Kuhn said.

Under SB3, voters have the option of proving where they live by providing the name of a homeless shelter or other organization they’ve designated to accept mail on their behalf. If they’re in between homes and staying somewhere else temporarily, voters could also provide a form signed by a roommate or leaseholder of that same place.

Kuhn said both of those scenarios would still present challenges: Not all homeless shelters are designed to accept mail for their tenants, she said, and people in other temporary living situations might be reluctant to “rock the boat” with their roommate or landlord by asking that person to do them an additional favor by filling out a form that would be filed with the government.

Under questioning from an attorney with the state’s legal team, Kuhn said she was not personally aware of anyone experiencing homelessness who hasn’t been able to register to vote because of SB3.

The state attorney also pointed to a newly updated section of the state’s Election Procedure Manual that told pollworkers “a person, who is otherwise qualified to vote, cannot be denied voter registration because he or she is homeless.”

 

Aug. 28

Dr. Deborah Bosley — Principal, The Plain Language Group

The plaintiffs called on Bosley, a communications consultant who spent decades teaching technical writing, to analyze the readability of the language on new voter registration documents used under SB3.

Specifically, Bosley looked at the new voter registration form and a set of instructions given to voters about what steps they need to take to follow the new voting law. She performed a series of tests analyzing the documents’ complexity and the reading comprehension level someone would need to understand them.

Based on that analysis, Bosley said the new voting documents require a reading comprehension level equivalent to several advanced degrees.

Of the new voter registration form, Bosley said, “The grade level scored at 43.39. Which, I don’t know — three PhDs? Four PhDs? I don’t even know what that grade level would be.”

Bosley also said the title of the form used to explain the requirements to voters was in itself too confusing.

“Calling it the ‘verifiable action of domicile’ in and of itself is highly complex for the average adult,” Bosley said.

 

Aug. 29

Dr. Deborah Bosley — Principal, The Plain Language Group

The defense spent several hours at the start of Wednesday's hearing trying to poke holes in the methodology Bosley used to evaluate the readability of the new SB3 voter registration forms. 

An attorney for the state questioned her level of experience studying statutes and other government documents. Bosley said this was her first time evaluating voter registration forms but said she has worked with government agencies to improve the readability of other official documents.

The state’s attorney also questioned whether Bosley’s conclusions about the complexity of the forms were influenced by the fact that the plaintiffs in the SB3 lawsuit had paid her $300 an hour to conduct her analysis for their side of the case. Bosley said it’s not uncommon for people to be paid for the kind of analysis she did, and she took steps to make sure her approach to studying the forms was as evenhanded as possible.

“I’m not going to give somebody an answer they want simply because I’m being paid,” Bosley said.

Jennifer West — Dartmouth College

West was the first college student to testify in the hearing. She isn’t a plaintiff in the case, but (according to her testimony) she was contacted about serving as a plaintiff early on. West said she declined to join the lawsuit because of concerns over the time commitment, but she was aware of the case early on.

West’s testimony focused largely on why it might be difficult for students at Dartmouth to comply with SB3 because of the way campus living arrangements are structured. 

Under SB3, students have the option to provide documentation of their on-campus mailing address as a way of proving they live in the community where they’re seeking to vote.

At Dartmouth, West said, students don’t receive mail directly to their dorms; instead, students must pick up mail at a central building. West said she was concerned about her ability to fulfill SB3’s requirements because her mailing address is different from the place she actually lives.

When questioned about the steps she took to clear up that confusion, West said she did not reach out to local or state election officials to ask questions about how to comply with SB3.

Seysha Mehta — Dartmouth College

Mehta, a plaintiff in the case, wasn’t in the courtroom because of a scheduling conflict, so her testimony and cross-examination was presented through a prerecorded video. 

She told the court she became involved in the lawsuit after hearing about it at a Dartmouth Democrats meeting last year. At the time, she recalled, the group was told that attorneys were looking for potential plaintiffs who wanted to vote in New Hampshire and who believed SB3 might be burdensome.

Like West, Mehta also said she was confused about how she might properly verify her on-campus address because she receives mail at a different location than where she lives. She said she would not be able to produce any of the other kinds of documentation the state would accept under the law, like an in-state vehicle registration or a lease.

Mehta said she found the new voter registration documents “intimidating.”

As with the other student who testified, the defense pressed Mehta on whether she took steps to ask her local electon clerk or the Secretary of State’s office for guidance on how to comply with SB3. Mehta said she did not.

Louise Spencer — Kent Street Coalition

Spencer founded the Kent Street Coalition with neighbors in Concord as a way to channel their energy into local political activism after the 2016 presidential election. Part of their work, she said, focuses on voting policy. She also said she has served as a pollworker for several presidential elections. 

Spencer, like others who testified throughout the hearing, said she found SB3 confusing. But she also described an encounter she had at her local clerk’s office that illustrated confusion on the part of election workers, not just voters. 

Spencer said she stopped into her clerk’s office to ask how someone whose name is not on a lease or mortgage might document where they live, and she was — incorrectly — told that person could produce a notarized document stating they lived at a particular address. 

The state has told voters they can produce a form signed by someone who lives or owns the place where they’re staying, but notarization is not required.

“I was surprised they would tell me this because it was not a requirement of SB3,” Spencer said, adding that her local clerk’s office is typically careful about these issues. 

 

Aug. 30

Doug Marino — University of New Hampshire Alumnus

Marino, who graduated from UNH earlier this year, is another plaintiff in the lawsuit. He is registered to vote in Stratham, where he lives with his parents, but he said he might be hesitant to re-register if he moves in the future because of the new law.

Specifically, Marino pointed to a portion of one new SB3 voter registration form that asks someone to sign their name to confirm that they are claiming one single location as their “domicile,” and that they understand “a domicile is that place to which upon temporary absence a person has the intention of returning.”

“I would be concerned that some students would be wary of signing a document under potential of legal penalty when the definition of domicile is somewhat up to interpretation,” Marino said.

When asked why he felt “domicile” was subject to interpretation, he pointed to his own living situation.

“Frankly, I don’t have a lot of money, I’m in quite a bit of debt from my undergraduate degree — wherever I go, once I end up getting my own place, I’m not sure how long I’m going to be able to stay there,” Marino told the court. “Depending on how my employment situation goes, there could be a situation where I have to move again.”

Marino said he first learned about the lawsuit after receiving an email from Liz Purdy, a local Democratic strategist who was reaching out to recruit potential plaintiffs for the lawsuit.

“She, at the time, had some position with Priorities USA Action,” Marino said. (Priorities USA Foundation, which is affiliated with the national Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action, is footing part of the legal bills for the SB3 lawsuit.)

Marino, a former speaker of the UNH Student Senate and former candidate for Durham Town Council, said he’s been involved in Democratic politics on a number of fronts. He’s interned for Sen. Maggie Hassan, he currently volunteers for the Chris Pappas Congressional campaign, he’s pursuing a new job with the New Hampshire Democratic Party and hopes to run for office (again) in the future.

Ann Shump — Chair of the Supervisors of the Checklist in Durham

Most of Shump’s testimony focused on the impact SB3 could have on pollworkers and their ability to efficiently manage long lines at the polls on Election Day. Shump told the court SB3 is just one of many new voting requirements passed by the New Hampshire Legislature in recent years that has placed additional burdens on local election officials.

As her town’s lead checklist supervisor, Shump is responsible for overseeing voter registration in Durham, which is also home to the main campus of the University of New Hampshire. During the 2016 general election, the town had the highest rate of Election Day registrants statewide — just under 19 percent. (High rates of same-day registration could also be found in communities around other New Hampshire college campuses.)

While Shump and her fellow pollworkers take steps to try to accommodate this influx of new voters —  working with UNH to hold on-campus voter registration sessions leading up to large elections, for example — they still routinely deal with long wait times at the poll during high-turnout elections. To illustrate this point, attorneys for the plaintiffs challenging SB3 played a video from the 2012 presidential election in which a line snaked around the perimeter of Oyster River High School, which serves as Durham’s polling place. 

Shump said such lines are likely to get even worse under SB3.

“I feel, and the two other supervisors feel that it’s going to slow those lines down because we’re going to have to spend more time explaining to those people who don’t have any proofs of domicile what is expected of them,” Shump said.

While midterm turnout is typically lower than in presidential election years, Shump said she’s heard “rumors” about a big push mobilize student turnout this year and is trying to recruit additional volunteers to help with the registration process.

She said it’s also been a challenge for her and other poll workers to pin down what kind of evidence students might be able to use to comply with SB3.

During cross-examination, a state attorney emphasized that voters already had to take steps to prove domicile before SB3 went into effect and that Durham is in a league of its own when it comes to New Hampshire polling places.

Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards: “Would you agree with me that Durham is a very unique polling place in New Hampshire?”

Shump: “Yes.” 

Edwards: “And that with respect to registering new voters, it is likely the busiest polling place in New Hampshire during the presidential primary and the presidential general election?”

Shump: “Yes.”

Under questioning from Edwards, Shump acknowledged that she can ask state officials for help interpreting laws like SB3 if needed — and that she has done so many times in the past. 

Aug. 31

Dr. Lorraine Minnite – Rutgers University at Camden 

The plaintiffs in the SB3 case brought Minnite to the stand because of her research into the prevalence, or lack thereof, of voter fraud across the country. She has testified in a number of election lawsuits in other states, including a highly publicized ACLU case earlier this year involving Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Kobach led the Trump administration’s now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, of which New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner was also a member.)

Even before Minnite’s testimony began on Friday, the defense challenged the relevance of her perspective in the lawsuit challenging SB3. Bryan Gould, an attorney hired by the state to help defend SB3, argued that the existence of “widespread voter fraud” was not at issue in the case and was not, as the plaintiffs suggest, a pretext for passing the new voting requirements. After some back-and-forth between the defense and the plaintiffs, the judge allowed Minnite to proceed with her testimony.

Minnite said she looked at a range of sources (including reports produced by the Secretary of State’s office, case files provided by the Attorney General’s office and local news stories) to try to come to some conclusion about how often voter fraud happens in New Hampshire.

Based on her review, which spanned from about 1998 to 2017, Minnite said voter fraud is “exceedingly rare.”

“I think Secretary of State Gardner is on record stating, I heard it earlier today, that there was something like one case of voter fraud a year,” Minnite said, referring statements Gardner made during the legislative debates over whether to pass SB3, which attorneys on both sides referenced during Friday’s hearing. “I actually found slightly less – 16 in 20 years.”

Minnite said that she only counted incidents that seemed to involve a voter who made “an intentional effort to corrupt the voting process.”

Her final tally did not include cases in which New Hampshire officials were unable to confirm the qualifications of voters who signed affidavits instead of providing proof they lived where they were trying to vote. In those instances, the state would send follow-up letters to an address the voter provided when they registered, but in every election the state reports that at least a portion of those letters – sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds – are undeliverable.

But Minnite told the court it was important to keep in mind that those letters don’t get mailed until several months after the election, and they therefore might not reach people who have moved to a new home in that time. She also said there were plenty of other explanations for why a letter might come back as undeliverable, not just wrongful voting.

“Just because mail can’t be delivered doesn’t mean you have voter fraud,” Minnite said. “It’s not to say there aren’t cases – I document cases in my report – it’s simply not a reliable indicator of voter fraud, in my mind.”

Dr. Muer Yang – University of St. Thomas

Yang is a researcher who focuses on studying wait times, both in voting and other contexts, like healthcare.  He was hired by the attroneys challenging the new voter registration requirements to analyze how they might impact delays at the polls.

To do so, Yang said he interviewed local election officials at nine polling locations with high rates of Election Day registration to gather information about wait times and their estimates of how long registration might take under SB3. He used that information in mathematical models he constructed to evaluate the potential wait times for same-day registrants under the new law.

His conclusion?

“SB3 increases the risk of long lines at polling locations in New Hampshire,” Yang told the court. “And to be more specific, SB3 will increase the average registration time for voters, especially those without proof of domicile. And because of that increase in average transaction times, it will lead to longer lines.”

Polling places with higher rates of Election Day registrants, Yang said, “are more vulnerable to such increase and therefore more likely to have long lines.”

Yang conducted his analysis in the context of a presidential election, but he said the results were “equally applicable” to a midterm election like the one coming up this fall.

Most of the defense’s questioning centered on the methods and assumptions Yang used for his analysis.

Under cross-examination, Yang said he initially gave the legal team challenging SB3 a list of 20 communities that met his criteria for the analysis – those with highest rates of Election Day registration – and those attorneys connected him to the officials he ultimately interviewed from there. Yang also said he didn’t take into account the party affiliation of the people he interviewed or their stance on SB3.

Sept. 4

Michael Herron — Dartmouth College

Months before the lawsuit over SB3 was filed, Herron co-authored a series of blogs for The Washington Post debunking President Trump’s claims about voter fraud both in New Hampshire and nationally.

He performed similar work for the plaintiffs in the SB3 lawsuit — but he also ran a series of statistical tests to study whether SB3 would affect certain groups of voters more than others. 

He concluded that SB3 would likely place greater burdens on people who rely more heavily on Election Day registration.

And in New Hampshire, he said, “same-day voter registration is used by young people, by mobile individuals and disproportionately by Democrats compared to Republicans.”

“I identified thousands of individuals in each case,” Herron said, “which shows that the burdens of SB3 will not fall on, say, handfuls of individuals but thousands instead.”

As they had with other expert witnesses, the state’s defense team focused their cross-examination on questioning the legitimacy of Herron’s findings on several fronts — by pointing out that the plaintiffs’ attorneys were paying Herron roughly $500 an hour for his role in the lawsuit and that Herron was not individual groups he singled out in his report nor on line manegement. They also spent considerable time trying to pick apart the underlying math Herron used to reach his conclusions about SB3.

The state also prepared its own outside expert — M.V. Hood, III, who testified in defense of new voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Texas — to rebut Herron’s findings and planned to call him forward at some point during the hearing. By the end of the week, however, the state opted against bringing Hood to the stand. 

 

The court also heard testimony from Amelia Keane, the executive director of the New Hampshire Young Democrats and Spencer Anderson, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Anderson is a student at Dartmouth College and, like other students involved in the case, claimed he found SB3 confusing. Also like other plaintiffs involved in the case, Anderson said he learned about the case through friends involved in the Dartmouth Democrats.

 

 

Sept. 5

Ray Buckley — Chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging SB3. Buckley (who told the court he is both a former ballot clerk and moderator) said the party has hired extra staff in part to take on extra work required to educate voters about the new requirements of SB3. 

But the real flash point in Buckley’s testimony came after he said he feared SB3 will scare voters — particularly new American citizens — away from the polls because of what he described as an “open-ended threat that the police could come pounding on your door.”

“That could be intimidating to new citizens from more ravaged countries, to come here and say, oh, by registering and voting you are empowering the possibility of police coming in and taking away — we’re seeing what’s happening on the borders, children being taken away and lost — and that isn’t limited in that law,” Buckley said. “So when you read that, you’re like, are they going to take my children away?”

In a pointed cross-examination, Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards suggested Buckley and other Democrats are the ones drumming up unfounded fears about the new law. 

Edwards: The New Hampshire Democratic Party is out scaring voters right now, aren’t they?

 

Buckley: No.

Edwards: You don’t believe that you’re scaring voters by making statements that SB3 has been passed in order to intimidate them?

Buckley: No.

Edwards: You don’t believe that telling people that individuals are going to come to their home and break in and take their family members and do whatever they want to them isn’t intimidating?

Buckley: No.

Edwards continued to press the point throughout the cross-examination.

Edwards: You don’t believe that the state is coming to voters homes like a drug bust and that they’re going to knock down voters’ doors, do you?

 

Buckley: I have witnessed a lot of things over the course of the time since the 2016 election, so I believe that anything is possible.

An early draft of SB3 would have added language to the voter registration forms warning people that law enforcement officials might take steps to verify they really live where they’re trying to vote. That language was later changed to say that officials — not necessarily police — might handle such follow-up investigations. 

During a later portion of the SB3 hearing, a state investigator told the court that state police have at times assisted with post-election investigations into the eligibility of voters who signed affidavits instead of providing documentation to show they lived where they were voting.

The court also heard testimony from Elizabeth Correll and Mary Wilke, both of whom identified as local pollworkers who found the new SB3 requirements difficult to understand, and Saint Anselm College student Phillip Dragone, a plaintiff in the case. Dragone said he initially tried to register to vote but did not complete his registration because the process seemed “intimidating” and “inconvenient.” Dragone said someone from the New Hampshire Young Democrats recommended that he serve as a plaintiff in the case. 

 

 

Sept. 6

Richard Tracy — Chief Investigator, New Hampshire Department of Justice 

Tracy supervises investigations throughout the attorney general’s office but also serves as the chief investigator for the Election Law Unit. 

His testimony focused largely on two issues: how the state approaches investigations into allegations of wrongful voting and what its investigations to-date have revealed about the extent of voter fraud in New Hampshire. 

Tracy said the Attorney General’s office has not developed a formal policy on how it will handle investigations or enforcement under SB3 — largely because the penalties associated with SB3 were put on hold last year as part of the lawsuit in which he was now testifying.

But in 2017, even before SB3 went into effect, Tracy said the state devoted eight investigators — six from the attorney general’s office and two from New Hampshire State Police — to investigate whether people who signed affidavits instead of providing required ID or other documentation voted illegally.

Tracy said those investigators were able to verify the eligibility of most of those voters by combing through various town or state records: vehicle registration and driver’s license databases, college directories, tax forms and even dog registration records. If that didn’t work for a particular voter, the investigators also tried to track down the landlord or property manager of the address the people listed on their voter registration paperwork. And if that wasn’t successful, as a last resort, Tracy said investigators would try to visit the homes of voters in-person to see if they really lived there.

As for the extent to which those and other investigations turned up any evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, Tracy said it does happen rarely — as NHPR has also detailed extensively using the state’s own records — but it is neither “rampant” nor “vast.” 

 

Dave Scanlan — Deputy Secretary of State

Scanlan told the court he wasn’t aware of any serious problems that pollworkers have encountered in trying to administer SB3 so far and said his office wasn’t hearing “many significant concerns” from local election officials about the new law. 

The Secretary of State’s office was among the most influential supporters of SB3 when it was being debated by the Legislature last year. Scanlan said they believed the law would both instill greater confidence in the state’s elections, which would help drive voter participation, and would be feasible to administer. 

As the agency responsible for overseeing New Hampshire elections, the Secretary of State’s office has been in charge of educating local election officials about the new changes enacted under SB3. Scanlan said the office conducts ongoing workshops with local election officials, and SB3 has been covered during those presentations. In total, he estimated that about 1,500 local election officials have attended such training leading up to this week’s primary elections. 

In addition to those trainings, Scanlan said his office publishes and distributes an Election Procedure Manual that serves as a guide for pollworkers on how to administer all kinds of voting laws, and that manual includes new instructions telling pollworkers how to handle SB3. 

 

 

Final Takeaways & What's Next

The ninth and final day of the hearing concluded with additional testimony from Plymouth Town Clerk Karen Freitas and Orville “Bud” Fitch, a former deputy attorney general who was hired as an elections attorney for the Secretary of State’s office last year. (A NHPR reporter was not able to attend this portion of the hearing.)

But state attorneys got in what amounted to a closing argument of sorts on Thursday afternoon — telling the judge that, after almost two weeks of testimony, there was still no evidence that any individual voter has been directly harmed by the new voter registration law. On top of that, they argued, several of the plaintiffs who claim they would have trouble registering under SB3 haven’t actually tried to do so. 

“We believe if the unregistered plaintiffs try to register, they would be able to do so without issue,” Assistant Attorney General Anthony Galdieri told the court on Thursday, arguing that the judge should dismiss the plaintiffs’ request to put the law on hold. 

The opposing lawyers, on the other hand, argued that they presented “substantial” evidence that SB3 will burden certain groups of voters more heavily than others — and that the state isn’t justified in imposing those burdens because there’s little evidence of the kind of voter fraud the law seeks to prevent.

It’s unlikely that a ruling will be issued before Tuesday’s state primary election, but attorneys on both sides are hoping for a decision as soon as possible ahead of the general election in November.