N.H. bill to create trackable ballots for voters without ID gets public hearing
House lawmakers heard public testimony Friday on a bill that would create trackable ballots for voters who don’t bring proper identification or other documents to the polls, allowing their votes to be erased from vote tallies if they don’t later provide proof of their eligibility to cast a ballot.
Republicans in the Senate passed SB 418 in March, contending it would tamp down on unverified voters participating in New Hampshire elections, despite any evidence of widespread participation by residents of other states casting ballots in the state.
Opponents say the measure would sow confusion into the process and potentially violates the state constitution.
Under the plan, voters who don’t have proper identification would cast a newly created affidavit ballot, which would be numbered and traceable by election officials. Voters would then have 10 days to mail necessary documentation to the Secretary of State’s office to prove their eligibility, or their ballots would be scrapped and the final results amended.
Backers of the bill, including Sen. Bob Guida, a Republican from Warren who sponsored the measure, told the House Election Law Committee that the state has the right to set the qualifications for who casts ballots.
“Every living, breathing person on the planet is not entitled to vote in New Hampshire,” Guida said. “But under current law, any living, breathing person on the planet can come here and vote.”
Under current state law, voters who don’t have proper identification to prove their citizenship, identity and age may cast a ballot if they sign an affidavit swearing to their eligibility to vote in New Hampshire, with potential legal penalties and fines for fraudulent submissions.
Democrats and voting rights groups oppose the measure to create, in effect, a provisional ballot system, arguing it is an unnecessary burden on voters with the potential to create long lines on election day.
“It attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” Linda Bundy of Antrim told lawmakers. “By alleging fraud, it sows distrust among voters. It will create hurdles that will suppress the vote.”
Opponents also raised privacy concerns, noting that tracked ballots could allow election officials to view the votes cast by an individual, in possible violation of the state constitution.
There were also questions raised about how the proposal would impact military personnel serving overseas, given tight timelines between the state’s primary in September and general elections in November.
Earlier this week, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, criticized the plan, which he cautioned could delay the reporting of election results, including during the state’s presidential primary, when all eyes are on New Hampshire.
“The problem I have generally with provisional ballots is that you may not get a final result for days after the election,” Sununu told reporters. He stopped short of pledging to veto the measure.
Dave Scanlan, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, voiced his “general support” for the measure during the public hearing, arguing it could improve the public’s confidence in the election process. He also claimed New Hampshire is currently one of the “easiest” states in which voters can cast a ballot.
The bill will come up for a committee vote before heading to the full House.