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The Exchange

Election Laws in the 2021 N.H. Legislature

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Moderator Jeanne Batchelder giving directions to pollworkers in Nashua.

There are almost a dozen election law bills under consideration in the New Hampshire legislature this session.  We look at bills at the statehouse concerning voter verification, absentee voting, and more. We also get an overview of the Democratic voting bill in the U.S. Senate, the “For The People” act. 

Airdate: Tuesday, May 18, 2021

GUESTS:

  • Pam Fessler - NPR's national  correspondent, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues. 
  • Anna Brown - Director of Research and Analysis for Citizens Count, a nonpartisan nonprofit providing objective information about issues, candidates, and elected officials.

Read about the "For The People" Act and Pam Fessler's reporting about the Senate markup session recently.

Voting Bills in the N.H. Legislature

Here is a list of the election law bills being discussed in the N.H. legislature, with information from Citizens' Count:

Voter verification:

HB 292 – Requires absentee voters to provide additional verification, such as showing a driver's license or getting a notarized signature, if the ballot is mailed to an address other than that shown in the official checklist. Had a public hearing in the Senate Election Law committee on May 10, no committee recommendation yet.

HB 523 – Requires the supervisors of the checklist, town or city clerk, or election day official to take a photograph of any person who registers using a qualified voter affidavit or sworn statement on the general election day registration form. Senate Election Law committee recommends to pass on May 20 with an amendment.

SB 54 – Requires a voter to include a photocopy of his or her valid New Hampshire driver's license or other ID with the application for an absentee ballot and inside the outer envelope when returning an absentee ballot. Passed the Senate, House Election Law committee will have an executive session on May 19.

Access to absentee voter lists:

HB 223 – Authorizes political parties to request the absentee ballot request list from the Secretary of State. Passed the House, Senate Election Law committee recommends passing with amendment on May 20. 

HB 291 – Requires town and city clerks to make absentee ballot voter lists available for public inspection within 60 days after an election, or earlier with a court order. This bill also requires the Secretary of State to make a report containing various data points on absentee ballots. Public hearing held May 17 in the Senate Election Law committee.

HB 326 – Requires town and city clerks to provide electronic lists of persons who have requested, been mailed, or returned absentee ballots available to candidates upon request. Had a public hearing in the Senate Election Law committee on May 10, no committee recommendation yet.

Voter checklist updates:

HB 285 – Modifies the procedures for ongoing verification of the information contained in voter checklists. For example, this bill requires the Secretary of State to check voter records with the USPS for changes of address. Voted on in the Senate May 17.

SB 31 – Modifies the process for reporting voter address changes so that the process is centralized in the Secretary of State's office rather than delegated to supervisors of the checklist. This bill also makes some changes to the wording of absentee ballot affidavit. Passed the Senate, House Election Law committee will have an executive session on May 19.

Other

HB 98 – Changes the date of the state primary election from September to the first Tuesday in June. The House amended the bill to change it to the fourth Tuesday in June. Passed the House, no executive session in the Senate yet. 

SB 83 – Elections omnibus bill. Among other things, it authorizes the creation of an "election information portal" where voters can complete a new voter application, request an absentee ballot, and request changes to the statewide centralized voter registration database (such as address and party affiliation). Passed the Senate, House Election Law committee has executive session May 19.

SB 89 – Another elections omnibus bill. The part that’s probably most relevant to current events: establishes a committee to study post-election auditcounting devices. Passed the Senate. There’s House hearing on May 19 for an amendment that says: “Notwithstanding the adoption by the United States Congress of S.1, also known as the ‘For the People Act of 2021,’ all procedures and requirements relating to elections conducted pursuant to the New Hampshire constitution and as prescribed by New Hampshire law shall remain in full force and effect for all state and county officers, including but not limited to those procedures and requirements relating to voter eligibility, voter registration, absentee voting, conducting the vote, and counting of votes.”

SB 47 - to expand no-excuse absentee voting this year (already killed in the Senate).

 

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