League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, Supported by Priorities USA Foundation, Files Suit Against Unconstitutional New Hampshire Voting Law
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 23, 2017
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, SUPPORTED BY PRIORITIES USA FOUNDATION, FILES SUIT AGAINST UNCONSTITUTIONAL NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTING LAW
Law Establishing Burdensome Voter Registration Requirements Discriminates Against Young, Low-Income and Minority New Hampshire Residents
WASHINGTON, DC — Supported by Priorities USA Foundation, the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and three New Hampshire voters, two of whom are college students, filed a complaint today in the Southern District of the Hillsborough County Superior Court for the State of New Hampshire challenging a new law enacted by the New Hampshire State Legislature (formerly SB 3), which creates new, burdensome and discriminatory requirements for New Hampshire residents who wish to register to vote and arbitrarily expands the definition of voter fraud in the state to reach the mere failure to comply with the law’s burdensome paperwork requirement by a tight and arbitrary deadline, even where a voter has a fundamental right to vote under the New Hampshire Constitution. If the law is not enjoined, the voter registration process will become unnecessarily burdensome for those who have recently moved to New Hampshire—especially college students—as well as for low-income and minority residents without access to the newly required documents.
In July, New Hampshire’s legislature and Republican governor enacted SB 3, which created new and complicated requirements for New Hampshire residents registering to vote. For those wishing to register to vote more than 30 days prior to an election, SB 3 requires potential voters to present documents proving that they have taken a “verifiable act” evidencing their intent to make New Hampshire their primary home, or domicile. For those wishing to register within 30 days of an election, SB 3 also requires that they successfully navigate a different, much lengthier, and highly confusing voter registration form, and would potentially subject legitimate voters to visits from state officials and potential criminal and civil penalties, not because there is any question about their eligibility to vote, but simply if they fail to comply with the law’s new onerous (and extremely confusing) paperwork requirement to prove a “verifiable act” of domicile within ten day of registering to vote. In addition to potentially criminalizing legitimate voters, SB 3 imposes serious administrative burdens on New Hampshire’s local elections administrators – a large number of whom actively and vocally opposed passage of the law. It will create long lines to register to vote due to overly complicated paperwork, and will do absolutely nothing to improve the integrity or security of New Hampshire elections.
The complaint challenges SB 3 on the grounds that it places an undue burden on the right to vote in New Hampshire, particularly for young, low-income and minority voters. Additionally, the suit alleges that the law violates the First, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
“New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation, yet this law seems specifically designed to prevent new voters from engaging in civic life,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA.
“SB 3 sets up barriers to voting that are confusing, burdensome and just plain arbitrary, and they will prevent the young and disadvantaged from having their voices heard by their government. In New Hampshire and around the country, Priorities is committed to challenging any law that threatens to make it harder for citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”
“We are stymied how to explain the new registration procedures under SB 3 to potential voters whose living arrangements don’t fall into easily documented patterns,” said Liz Tentarelli, president of the League of Women Voters NH.
“If our explanations are not short and clear on first reading, many potential voters will decide that voter registration is too complicated and not even attempt it. So far neither League volunteers nor the Secretary of State have been able to explain the process in less than several densely worded pages.”
This lawsuit is the second piece of litigation Priorities USA Foundation has supported in 2017. The first, filed earlier this month, challenges an Indiana law that is likely to lead to the closing of nearly half of the voting precincts in the heavily African-American and Hispanic Lake County, Indiana. Since its 2017 relaunch, Priorities USA has been focused on defending voting rights around the country and challenging unfair voting laws wherever they arise.
The Plaintiffs in this suit are represented by Marc Elias, Bruce Spiva, and John Devaney of Perkins Coie LLP in Washington D.C., Henry Klementowicz and Steven Dutton of McLane Middleton in Manchester, N.H., and Paul Twomey of Epsom, N.H.