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Senate Passes Voting Registration Measure, Adopts Independent Redistricting Panel

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Democrats in the New Hampshire Senate have voted through a bill to exempt college students and members of the military from having to register their cars in New Hampshire if they vote here. The bill was one of several party line votes on bills governing elections.

The bill would blunt a key provision in a GOP-backed law enacted last year, which required all people voting in state elections to register their cars here and get New Hampshire drivers licenses.

Republicans like Bob Guida say the law is fair and if people choose to vote in New Hampshire, they should follow state law.

"Our obligation is not to out-of-state students but to citizens of the state," he said.

But Democrats like Melanie Levesque say current law creates barriers that should be lifted.

"I see tying the right to vote to vehicle registration, as curtaining the right to vote. They should not be connected."

The bill passed on party lines. As did a bill to create an independent commission to carry out legislative redistricting. Both ideas are expected to win support in the Democratically controlled New Hampshire House but are opposed by Governor Sununu.

The bill would create a 15-member panel to draw legislative boundaries. Lead sponsor Shannon Chandley of Milford says the logic is simple:

"Representatives and senators should not choose their voters, voters should choose their representatives. And the way to do this is through an independent redistricting commission." 

The Republican senators opposing the bill say drawing districts is the legislature’s job and handing that job to an outside commission would violate the Constitution.

Democrats in the New Hampshire House have already passed their own, slightly different independent redistricting bill.    

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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