No Major Changes to N.H.'s Voting Rules for November, Judge Rules in COVID-Related Court Challenge | New Hampshire Public Radio

No Major Changes to N.H.'s Voting Rules for November, Judge Rules in COVID-Related Court Challenge

Oct 2, 2020

Most of New Hampshire's voting rules will remain in place as planned for November, despite a recent court challenge. A judge on Friday rejected claims that the state’s absentee ballot deadline, postage requirements and “ballot harvesting” restrictions created burdens on people's right to vote.

This means that New Hampshire voters will still need to make sure their completed absentee ballots arrive to their local clerks by 5 p.m. on Election Day (whether by mail or hand delivery), will still need to come up with their own postage if sending their absentee ballot by mail, and will need to have a witness if registering vote by mail. 

(New Hampshire absentee ballots are most often rejected because they arrive after the deadline, according to the available data. But there are simple steps you can take to avoid this and other potential issues when voting absentee this year.)

The case is a legal victory for the Republican National Committee and President Trump's re-election campaign, who sided with state attorneys in opposing additional changes to New Hampshire's COVID-19 voting rules before November’s election.

The American Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit in August, backed by a prominent Democratic law firm that has been waging similar electoral battles across the country. The same firm, Perkins Coie, has also been involved in other lawsuits seeking to overturn various voter registration rules in New Hampshire in recent years.

In his ruling Friday, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Will Delker said those pushing for changes to the state’s voting rules largely failed to demonstrated that the current rules actually prevented anyone from voting. Even where Delker found that certain requirements could constitute a burden for some voters, he said the plaintiffs still weren’t able to point to anyone who wasn’t able to comply.

(You can read the full order in the recent COVID-19 voting lawsuit here.)

“This lack of evidence is particularly noteworthy given the hearing on the preliminary injunction occurred two weeks after the State’s primary election on September 8, 2020,” Delker wrote. “If there was a wide-spread inability of voters to register for the primary, the Court would have expected evidence of that during the hearing.”

Despite dismissing most of the claims, Delker did side with the teacher’s union on one point: He said the Secretary of State’s office needs to start making absentee voter registration forms available upon request, as mandated by existing law. The judge left it up to the state to determine how to make that happen in the remaining weeks before the general election.

(NHPR’s COVID-19 voting guide has more information on New Hampshire’s absentee and in-person voting rules during the pandemic.)