NH League opposes SB 403

THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
March 12, 2006

Public and Municipal Affairs Committee
State House 103
Concord, NH 03301

Dear Senators:

Based on our study of the proposed legislation, the League of Women Voters
of New Hampshire urges you to oppose Senate Bill 403:An Act relative to
verification of identity when a person registers or attempts to register to
vote.

     The League of Women Voters believes that voting is a fundamental citizen
right that must be guaranteed. The League was created in 1920 following the
struggle to get the vote for women. The history of our nation and our
Constitution has been a progression from rights reserved for the privileged
few to rights guaranteed to all. As members of an organization founded by
those who struggled to get the right to vote for women, we are conscious
that this struggle continues today. For the past 86 years, the organization
has worked at every level of government to guarantee the right of citizens
to vote.

     We support assuring that our elections are fair and above board. However,
it is clear from testimony presented to the House Election Law Committee by
the Attorney General’s Office that New Hampshire does not have a record of
election fraud. There were 50 suspected instances reported in the last
election. Of these, 49 were found to be not fraudulent and one remains under
investigation. One unresolved case out of almost 700,000 ballots cast does
not indicate that our state has a problem with election fraud. The Attorney
General’s Office could only cite one instance of fraud in any previous
election.

     The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire is concerned that a number of
bills have been proposed this year that will create unnecessary obstacles to
the right to vote. SB 403 would place unnecessary restrictions on
identifications used for voter registration, it would allow people who are
not government officials to make decisions about who can register to vote
and it calls for an investigation of any citizen who does not produce a
government issued photo identification in order to register to vote.

Part II of SB 403 adds New Hampshire high school, college or university
photo identifications to the list of documents deemed presumptive evidence.
While we think school IDs should be added to the list, we believe it is
unnecessary to restrict those identifications to New Hampshire institutions.
For identification purposes, a document with a photo from any school should
be sufficient. For domicile, a document with the current address in New
Hampshire should be sufficient even if the school ID is from an institution
in Vermont, Maine or Massachusetts.

Part III of SB 403 may be well meaning but it is misguided and should be
rejected because it creates a potential for abuse of rights on a large
scale. Outsourcing voter registration to administrators of nursing homes or
their designees would result in a system whereby someone who is not an
election official under our state’s laws gets to decide who can vote and who
can be denied the right to vote.

Part V (a), (b), (c) of SB 403 targets thousands of New Hampshire citizens
for government investigation. It establishes a system whereby citizens
without a government issued photo identification will automatically be
subject to a felony investigation. The only purpose for sending letters to
citizens without photo IDs is to question their right to vote. By singling
out only citizens who do not have photo IDs, this bill is clearly
discriminatory against those most likely to be without photo IDs including
the young, poor, minorities, elderly, blind, handicapped and new residents.

For many citizens in our society, receiving a letter from the Secretary of
State questioning whether they have legally registered to vote would be
enough to prevent them from ever exercising the right to vote.

Our current laws provide for legitimate challenges of voters. The fact that
the Attorney General received and investigated 50 challenges after the last
election shows that the system works without this new requirement in SB 403.

The Public and Municipal Affairs Committee hearing was postponed, last week,
so that some Senators would have an opportunity to study a proposed
amendment to SB 403. The League has also looked at the amendment and we do
not believe it corrects the serious flaws in the bill.

The League of Women Voters urges the committee to respect the fundamental
honesty of the citizens of New Hampshire and to respect our long tradition
of protecting the fundamental right to vote and reject SB 403 and the
proposed amendment.


Sincerely yours,



Jane Armstrong, President
League of Women Voters of New Hampshire
4 Park Street, Suite 200
Concord, NH 03301

cc: members of the NH Senate
Secretary of State William Gardner
Governor John Lynch

.....................
Joan F. Ashwell
15 Bayview Road
Durham, NH 03824
(603) 868-3775
jfashwell@comcast.net