Controversial New Hampshire Voting Law SB3 Struck Down In Superior Court

4 hours ago

A superior court judge has struck down a controversial New Hampshire voting law known as SB3, saying it’s unconstitutional and unreasonably burdens the right to vote.

(Click here for NHPR's previous coverage of SB3.)

The Republican-backed law passed along party lines in 2017 and was challenged in court soon after. It added new steps to the voter registration process, asking people to prove they live where they’re trying to vote, and new penalties for those who don't comply — though the state has been blocked from enforcing those penalties while this lawsuit is ongoing.

In a ruling issued this week following a lengthy hearing process in 2018 and 2019, Hillsborough Superior Court Judge David Anderson said the state failed to prove that the law was necessary to protect the integrity of New Hampshire’s elections or to prevent voter fraud.

Rather, the judge said, there is no proof such fraud is a serious problem in New Hampshire — and instead, the law added complexity and confusion that could dissuade people from voting.

As Anderson explained in one section of his more than 50-page ruling, the totality of the changes enacted by SB3 seemed powerful enough to discourage participation, even though the state repeatedly argued that no voter would be turned away at the polls:

"The problem with SB 3 is not that it creates a system that encourages voters to be actively turned away from the polls or physically prevents individuals from registering by, for example, requiring specific types of documentation that are impossible for one group to obtain. The burdens imposed by SB 3 are more subtle; the new process establishes enough hurdles, the forms contain enough complexity, and the penalties present enough risk that they tend to dissuade a specific type of voter from even engaging with the process. In this regard, the State's constant refrain that nobody was prevented from voting rings hollow. SB 3 does not stop someone at the polls from casting a ballot; it discourages them from showing up in the first place."

It is unclear whether the state plans to appeal the decision to a higher court.

SB3 is one of two voting policy changes tied up in ongoing litigation. The other, HB1264, altered the state's residency definition and is being challenged in federal court — though the New Hampshire State Supreme Court was recently asked to intervene in order to clarify what that law actually changes.

Read the full ruling below, or click here: