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N.H. Senate Approves Bill To Add New Requirements To Absentee Voting

The 2020 general election is November 3. A sign that says "vote" in capital letters sits in a yard.
Britta Greene for NHPR

Republicans in the New Hampshire Senate voted to advance a bill Thursday that would add new identification requirements to the state’s absentee balloting process, over the objections of disability rights advocates and others who warned it would create unnecessary burdens on voters who cannot easily obtain the necessary documentation.

The original bill required voters to obtain a photocopy of their drivers’ license or other forms of identification when returning an absentee ballot. The latest version of the bill, passed along party lines Thursday, instead alters the ID requirements for requesting an absentee ballot. It also allows voters to provide the last four digits of their Social Security number or another form of identification deemed acceptable by their local clerk.

Sen. Jim Gray, in a statement applauding the bill’s passage, said the measure would benefit election officials.

“It will protect the security of New Hampshire elections because it gives city and town clerks the ability to confirm the identity of all absentee voters,” Gray said. “In the last election, many clerks were apprehensive in processing absentee ballots due to the large number that they received.”

However, during the public hearing on an earlier version of the bill, the only two local election officials who testified warned that the bill would create additional work and could disenfranchise voters. 

Senate Democrats called the bill unnecessary and said it would make it harder for eligible voters to cast ballots, particularly the elderly and people with disabilities.

Manchester Sen. Lou D'Allesandro told colleagues they should focus on lifting barriers to participation.

"This bill doesn't do anything to promote that,” he said. “This bill is an impediment."

The bill now moves to the Republican-led House.