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STATE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT HARDER TO VOTE
By Jane Armstrong
President of the League of Women Voters of NH
Concord Monitor, January 15, 2006
The New Hampshire House will vote Wednesday on several bills that will discourage many eligible citizens from exercising their right to vote. The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire urges citizens to ask their legislators to oppose these bills.
New Hampshire has unusually stringent rules for registering to vote. It also requires citizens to sign a statement acknowledging the laws and penalties for election fraud. Of the 50 reported cases that have been investigated by the attorney general's office since 2004, just two cases remain unresolved. With 683,672 votes cast, that hardly shows a pattern of election fraud. The AG's office was unable to cite cases of fraud in previous elections.
The League of Women Voters is concerned that the House Election Law Committee has proposed bills that will result in the disenfranchisement of eligible voters under the guise of preventing fraud that exists only in the imagination. House Bill 345 would require an already registered voter to produce additional identification to get a ballot and vote. There is no exception for someone who loses or forgets the specified photo ID. New Hampshire has laws regarding attempts to vote fraudulently. This law would place an additional and unnecessary burden on every citizen who has already proven to be qualified to vote.
House Bill 347 would go beyond the federal photo identification requirements by calling for citizenship to be included on a driver's license. The Department of Transportation has already rejected this idea partly because of possible harassment of legal, resident non-citizens. In addition, the federal government, not the state, keeps citizenship records. Citizens would have to produce the new license to register to vote in the future. House Bill 391 does away with the secret ballot, a cornerstone of our democracy. This bill provides for local election officials to mark same-day registration affidavits and related ballots so that ballots can be withdrawn after the election if the affidavits are challenged. In addition, instead of letting the legal system investigate fraud, the challenged voter is expected to disprove the charge.
The League of Women Voters believes that voting is a fundamental right that must be guaranteed. The league was created in 1920 after the struggle to get the vote for women. For 85 years, the organization has worked at every level of government to guarantee the rights of citizens to vote.
Our research during that time has shown that the more roadblocks put in the way of citizens right to vote, the more likely they will become disgusted with the system and be discouraged from voting. We urge legislators to respect the fundamental honesty of the citizens of New Hampshire and our democratic traditions and reject these bills.