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Trial Begins In Legal Challenge To Controversial N.H. Voting Law

NHPR Staff

The legal challenge to the 2017 GOP-backed voting law known as Senate Bill 3 went to trial today in Superior Court in Manchester.

The law tightened rules for people registering to vote in New Hampshire, requiring them to provide documents proving their residency if they register within 30 days of an election.

SB3's backers, including Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner, say those requirements promote confidence in state elections without unduly burdening new voters. 

But the League of Women Voters, the state Democratic Party, and a handful of college students say SB3 creates such confusion that it violates voters' right to equal protection.

Elizabeth Corell, a Concord checklist supervisor, told the court Monday that the forms attached to the law are so complicated she's chosen not to advise voters about their meaning.

"The wording that I struggle with is, 'I am acknowledging that I have not presented evidence of actions carrying out my intent to be domiciled at this address,' " she said.

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Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards stressed that SB3 has been on the books since 2017, and the plaintiffs have yet to find anyone who's been harmed by the law.

"They cannot identify a single voter who was confused by Senate Bill 3," Edwards said, "They cannot identify a single voter who didn't register because of Senate Bill 3."

In a ruling last month, a superior court judge rejected the state’s effort to scuttle the lawsuit, but did limit its scope, ruling that the Legislature has the authority to define the meaning of "domicile" for voting. The judge also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument the law should be struck down the law on the grounds that it is too vague. 

Hearings in the trial continue this week.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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