What to Expect When Registering to Vote Between Now and the N.H. State Primary

Aug 20, 2018

With less than a month to go until the state primary election on Sept. 11, voters who register from this point forward have to follow a slightly different process than those who registered earlier in the year.

Under a law passed in 2017 known as Senate Bill 3 (or “SB3”), voters who register within 30 days of an election are supposed to provide proof they live where they’re trying to vote.  According to the Secretary of State’s office, there are a number of different documents that voters could show to satisfy SB3’s requirements.

(Scroll down for a list of ways to fulfill these new requirements.)

If the law were fully in effect, voters who lacked the right kind of documentation and failed to follow up with it by a certain deadline could face penalties for voter fraud.

But for the moment, the state isn’t allowed to punish people who don’t provide the right kind of documents. As part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new voting law, a judge barred the state from issuing any penalties related to SB3, at least for the time being.

A major hearing in that case is scheduled for Aug. 27 through Sept. 5, running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The outcome of the hearing could affect how the law is implemented in this fall’s elections – or, potentially, whether it gets struck down altogether.

If a voter doesn’t have the right kind of documentation on hand when they first show up to register, they’re supposed to mail or deliver it back to their city clerk later. The deadline is either 10 or 20 days after the election, depending on where a voter lives and how often their town hall is open.

Natalie Buelvas fell into that latter category when trying to register to vote this weekend at the We Are One community festival, where the Manchester City Clerk’s office set up a mobile voter registration station.

Buelvas moved from Dover to Manchester in February and wanted to update her registration to her new home ahead of the state primary on Sept. 11. But her license still listed her old address, and she didn’t have any other documentation of her new address on hand with her at the festival.

Even so, Buelvas was still able to complete her registration on the spot without much trouble at all.

“I thought it was really easy,” Buelvas said. “Even though I haven’t changed my ID yet, they just told me to mail in something, but they still let me register.” 

"It's been pretty streamlined. We haven't seen anybody walk away," said Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand.

Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand said he’s keeping an eye out for any changes in how to handle the registration process as that lawsuit moves forward – but in the meantime, at least in his office, the new requirements haven’t stood in the way of people registering to vote.

“It’s been pretty streamlined,” Normand said. “We haven’t seen anybody walk away.”

What do you need to do to satisfy the requirements of SB3?

According to the Secretary of State’s office, voters need to “provide evidence that you have taken a verifiable action to establish domicile.” In plain English, that means you need to provide just one document showing you live at the same address you used on your voter registration form. If you have a driver’s license that lists that address, you’re good to go – but if your driver’s license or current ID doesn’t list that address, the state says you have to come up with some other evidence.

The Secretary of State’s office has compiled checklists for voters and election officials outlining the different types of documents someone could show to satisfy this requirement. Those requirements are also outlined in the official Election Procedure Manual distributed to local election officials and posted on the Secretary of State's website.

This checklist provided to voters who do not have the required documents when they register lists some of the ways they could satisfy SB3's requirements. Additional options are outlined in the Election Procedure Manual.

According to those sources, you can provide any one of the following to prove your domicile as required by SB3:

  • A document listing the on-campus housing address where you registered to vote or a note signed by a school official (including a resident assistant or another dorm supervisor) attesting that you live where you're trying to register.
  • A rental agreement, lease or similar document showing that you live at the address you used when registering to vote. (If your  name isn’t listed on the agreement, you can also provide a written statement from someone else who is listed on the rental agreement “attesting that you reside at that address” and signed by either that person or their landlord/property manager.)
  • A mortgage statement, deed, property tax bill or some other document showing home ownership at the address where you’re registering to vote.
  • A New Hampshire motor vehicle registration, driver’s license or other form of government-issued identification.
  • A document showing you’ve enrolled your child in a local public school in the community where you’re registering to vote.
  • State or federal tax forms.
  • A receipt/confirmation from the U.S. Postal Service change of address process, showing that you’ve updated your address to the one where you’re trying to register to vote, as long as you’re not using a P.O. Box.
  • An electric, cable, gas, water or other public utility bill.
  • The name of a homeless shelter or other provider that collects mail on your behalf, or another note from a homeless shelter or service provider
  • “Any documentation deemed reasonable by the supervisors of the checklist." If you have questions about what other kinds of proof might be accepted in your community, try contacting your local town or city clerk.

If all else fails, the Secretary of State’s office says you can also “describe what other verifiable action or actions you have taken to make the address listed on your voting form your one voting domicile.” And if you still aren't able to provide any of the above proof of domicile, the Election Procedure Manual from the Secretary of State's office says you can still register to vote — as long as you sign a form acknowledging that you understand officials might take additional steps to verify that you really live at the place you listed on your registration form.