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N.H. Supreme Court Strikes Down Voting Law As Unconstitutional

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NHPR
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New Hampshire's highest court has affirmed a trial court's ruling against the Senate Bill 3 voting law.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has struck down a Republican-backed voting law that required newly-registering voters to provide proof of residency in the state before they could cast a ballot.

The 2017 law, known as Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), was challenged in court by the League of Women Voters and the state Democratic Party, who said it was an attempt at voter suppression. Republicans championed the law, saying it would prevent people from voting in places where they didn’t live. 

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A state superior court judge last year ruled the law unconstitutional and found it placed unreasonable burdens on the right to vote. In a 4-0 ruling Friday, the state Supreme Court agreed, affirming the lower court’s ruling and writing that the law was confusing, placed undue burdens on the right to vote and “must be stricken in its entirety.”

“We conclude that SB 3 is unconstitutional, as the State has failed to demonstrate that SB 3 is substantially related to the precise governmental interests it set forth as justifications necessitating the burdens the law imposes on the right to vote,” the justices wrote.

Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald, who was New Hampshire's attorney general at the time SB 3 was passed, did not rule on the case.

[Find NHPR's other coverage of SB 3.]

In a statement, Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed the law, called the ruling "disappointing" and urged lawmakers to take it into account in considering further changes to voting laws.

The Republican-backed law was tied up in court challenges shortly after it was signed in 2017. It added new steps to New Hampshire's voter registration process, requiring people to prove they live in the community where they’re trying to vote. It also outlined penalties for people who don't comply, though enforcement of the penalties had been blocked while the lawsuit was still active.

This post was updated at 2:30 ET.

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