NASHUA, N.H. (CN) – Filing suit Wednesday over the first voter-suppression law in New Hampshire, state Democrats say the legislation is a ham-fisted response to President Donald Trump’s loss there last year.
Signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, Senate Bill 3 tightens the state’s definition of domicile for voting purposes by requiring those who register to vote near the date of the election to provide paperwork proving that they intend to live where they register.
If voters don’t have evidence of residency, including tax forms or leases, they can sign an affidavit and later bring the paperwork to local officials within 10 days. Failure to do so can result in officials visiting the voter’s address, fines up to $5,000 and prosecution for voter fraud. Republican lawmakers claim the bill will deter voter fraud and does not deny anyone the right to vote.
For the New Hampshire Democratic Party, however, the true objective is to disenfranchise college students in the state, who tend to vote Democrat, as well as other low-income and minority groups. “Historically,” according to the complaint, “New Hampshire has … virtually no voter fraud.”
What it does have is high voter turnout, something the 2016 election bore out. Wednesday’s complaint notes that the state had the third highest voter turnout in the nation, with 11 percent of the total votes cast coming from voters who registered on Election Day alone.
“At the time the General Court enacted SB 3,” the complaint states, “it was aware that many of these same registrants are young, low-income and racial minorities, and that same-day registration has a positive effect on the voter turnout of these groups.”
The Democrats note that “precincts with the highest number of same-day registrations tended to be areas with the highest number of voters who were under the age of 25, nonwhite, renters, and living below the poverty level.”
“Most of those precincts also voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates,” the complaint states.
Needing something to blame for his loss in the state, President Donald Trump tweeted out without any evidence that “thousands” of Massachusetts residents had been bused in to “illegally” vote in the Granite State.
Though the unfounded claim prompted rebuttals from many prominent New Hampshire Republicans, Republican state Sen. Regina Birdsell echoed the rhetoric as she introduced SB3 last March.
Filing suit in Hillsborough Superior Court South, the Democrats calls the law’s new hurdles to voting “highly confusing, unnecessary and intimidating.”
“It will not only burden and, in some cases, disenfranchise eligible, lawful New Hampshire citizens, but will expose countless innocent voters to criminal and civil liability,” the 61-page complaint states.
Those at risk are not ineligible to vote; they are those who fail to “understand or comply with confusing and burdensome paperwork requirements,” the Democrats say.
They predict the law will particularly hard-felt in Nashua, a same-day registration city that is the state’s second-largest and home to three colleges.
“Those who are already registered but are simply attempting to vote will be similarly burdened by slow-moving lines” as election officials navigate through the myriad of new paperwork required to register new voters, the complaint states.
The suit names as defendants New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, a Democratic who serves on President Trump’s voter fraud commission, and New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.
In addition to an order stopping the two officials from implementing or enforcing the bill, the Democrats want SB3 struck down as unconstitutional. The party is represented by William Christie of Shaheen & Gordon in Concord.
Secretary Gardner and Attorney General MacDonald did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.