Voting Laws | New Hampshire Public Radio

Voting Laws

Voters line up at the Manchester City Clerk's office on Oct. 24, 2020.
Dan Tuohy, NHPR

Even before the polls close on Election Day, the pandemic has already reshaped the 2020 race in New Hampshire.

When state election officials announced this spring that any voter can cast an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about the coronavirus, it set off a record number of requests. Now, as of the morning of Nov. 3, hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire voters have already cast their ballots absentee.

Courtesy photos

Ty is a 22-year-old who grew up in Manchester and, like a lot of New Hampshire voters, got involved in politics at a young age. They phone-banked and canvassed for Bernie Sanders’ campaign as a high school student in 2016; they also cast their first vote the same year. And as the 2020 general election approaches, Ty’s eager to head back to the polls.

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The New Hampshire Republican Party says college students attending school remotely during the pandemic and who don’t have a current New Hampshire address shouldn’t be allowed to register to vote or request absentee ballots.

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Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Whether you plan to cast an absentee ballot or plan to head to your local polling place on Election Day, or even if you haven’t yet finalized your voting plan and need more information to help make up your mind, NHPR can help. 

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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.

Cori Princell, NHPR

Editor's note: This post was updated Oct. 10 to reflect new data on absentee ballot rejections during the September state primary.

More New Hampshire voters will be casting an absentee ballot in the November election than ever before. And since any eligible voter can cast an absentee ballot this year because of the pandemic, many are using the process for the first time.

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The November election is front and center on a lot of people's minds right now — not least of all because President Trump has recently declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election. He has also, without evidence, questioned the legitimacy of the election itself.

But here in New Hampshire, there's another battle playing out in court that could have ramifications for how and when voters cast their ballots in November, and how those ballots are counted.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

In New Hampshire, people who have bene convicted of a felony are eligible to vote as soon as they are no longer incarcerated.

In some states, felons lose their voting rights indefinitely. Here, felons have no extra forms or process to go through. All they have to do is show up at the polls on Election Day and vote.

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Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire Congressman Chris Pappas introduced a bill Thursday aimed at preventing age discrimination in voting.

Pappas says this legislation is particularly important during the pandemic, when access to the polls has been more limited.

“We’ve had voting hours restricted…restriction of polling places. And what we can’t afford to have happen is for efforts to be targeted against young voters or communities of color based on politics or based on political decision making.”

Britta Greene for NHPR

This story has been updated with additional information.

More than 330,000 surgical masks, 8,200 jugs of sanitizing wipes, 5,300 face shields and 3,200 sneeze guards are on their way to local pollworkers across New Hampshire in the coming weeks, according to a new memo from the Secretary of State's office. 

Michael Brindley/NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed bills to create a paid family leave program, to expand absentee voting and to provide relief for people who have trouble making housing payments due to COVID-19, continuing a string of vetoes that has already set a record for a New Hampshire governor.

justgrimes / Flickr Creative Commons

New Hampshire's pollworkers will be outfitted with masks, face shields, gloves and gowns for the September primary and November general election — but local officials will need to reuse some of those items, including face masks, in both elections, according to new guidance from the Secretary of State.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Any eligible New Hampshire voter who wants to cast an absentee ballot can do so this fall due to COVID-19 — and election officials across the state are preparing to process a potentially massive increase in absentee ballot requests in the months ahead.

justgrimes / Flickr Creative Commons

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has assembled a six-person "select committee" to advise his office on how to spend the $3.2 million in emergency election funding the state has received as part of a recent federal COVID-19 relief package. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

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, but the decision is expected to be appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

NHPR Staff

Questions about how New Hampshire’s new residency law works — how it affects everything from voting, to vehicle licensing requirements, to library cards and hunting licenses — were in front of the state’s highest court Tuesday.

Allegra Boverman | NHPR

Thousands of people went to the polls yesterday to vote in New Hampshire's first in the nation primary.

Charles Cooper wasn't one of them.

In the past few months, many of the candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination  have passed through the studios of New Hampshire Public Radio, on the top floor of an office building in Concord.

On their way to the elevator, they had to pass by the Pillsbury Cafe and Pantry, owned by Cooper and his wife Jill.

While many New Hampshire towns still count votes by hand, most of the state’s ballots are tallied by machines. A plan to check that those machines are counting votes correctly was the subject of debate before the House Election Law Committee Tuesday.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Democrats on the state’s Fiscal Committee rejected a portion of a Department of Justice funding request, saying they didn’t want additional state money going toward lawsuits defending bills they opposed.

The Attorney General requested an additional $1.2 million in funding pay for ongoing litigation, including prosecuting criminal cases and defending two controversial election-related bills passed in previous sessions by Republicans. 

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Did you know that people who are incarcerated pre-trial, or serving time for a misdemeanor, have a right to vote by absentee ballot in New Hampshire?

Not many do. But some lawmakers are hoping to change that.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

People who register to vote in New Hampshire and plan to drive here will have to obtain an in-state drivers license within 60 days of registering, if not sooner, according to guidance issued by state agencies who enforce elections administration and driving laws. 

NHPR

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from the couple charged with the voting violations.)

A couple who split their time between New Hampshire and Massachusetts pled guilty on Monday to charges that they voted in both states during the November 2016 election, but they told NHPR they only did so to avoid prolonging an already onerous court battle with the state. 

justgrimes / Flickr Creative Commons

State attorneys have been in court the past two weeks defending a new voter registration law known as Senate Bill 3. 

The trial is part of an ongoing debate about voting rights in New Hampshire. NHPR's Casey McDermott has been following the issue closely. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with McDermott about what happens next.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

Okay, first, can you remind us what this law is all about and what it changed to the voting registration process?

Todd Bookman for NHPR

Two college students who are suing the state over its new voter registration rules took the stand on Thursday as part of an ongoing trial over the future of the law behind them. While both students said they found the law confusing, both acknowledged that it did not prevent them from registering to vote.

Michael Brindley/NHPR

A trial over the voter registration law known as Senate Bill 3 continued in Hillsborough County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Democratic Party are suing the state over the 2017 law, which added new language to voter registration forms and new steps to the process asking people to prove they live in the community where they’re trying to vote.

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.

Lauren Chooljian / NHPR

A federal judge has denied a request from the American Civil Liberties Union and the state Democratic Party to block enforcement of a new New Hampshire residency law, but has asked the state Supreme Court to clear up several questions about how the law works.

Michael Brindley/NHPR

The implications of New Hampshire’s new residency law for voting and vehicle licensing are still not fully clear, several months after it went into effect and several months before the state’s presidential primary election.

So much about the new residency law remains subject to interpretation, in fact, that a federal judge wants the New Hampshire Supreme Court to certify — or clarify — several questions about how the law works before he tries to assess its constitutionality.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A lawsuit over a controversial new residency law is back in court Thursday morning, this time to decide whether the state could be blocked from enforcing any link between voter registration and vehicle licensing through the 2020 presidential primary election.

Ali Oshinskie / NHPR

Lawyers for the ACLU of New Hampshire and the state’s Department of Justice met Wednesday for the latest hearing in a federal court case over a Republican-backed law that alters the definition of who qualifies as a state resident. 

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