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Secretary of State predicts 'challenges' and litigation if voter ID law passes • New Hampshire Bulletin

Lawmakers have pushed forward a law that would require photo ID to be presented at polling places in New Hampshire without exception – and would require new voters to provide tangible proof of their citizenship to register.

But Secretary of State Dave Scanlan says implementing some aspects of the bill could prove difficult for his office.

In remarks to a committee tasked with determining voter confidence in Monday's election, Scanlan said a proposal to give the U.S. secretary of state's office the authority to set up a hotline to verify voters' citizenship using state records would be “difficult” to implement.

“It could be done, but not without challenges,” he said. First, he said, there isn't much time to implement it before the next statewide election in September. The Secretary of State's office will need to rush to train election officials in cities and towns on how to deal with the new documentation requirements, and they will also need to reach out to voters to explain the changes, he said.

Scanlan also told reporters that he spoke “openly” with Governor Chris Sununu on Monday about the bills and outlined his concerns.

“I basically said the same thing I said here: It's something we can manage, but it will bring its challenges,” he said in his summary of the conversation.

Lawmakers have advanced two bills that would tighten voter registration and identification requirements. The first, House Bill 1569would eliminate affidavits that allow voters to vote on Election Day without ID, under penalty of perjury. HB 1569 would also require voters to prove their citizenship through a birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers or other proof in order to register to vote for the first time. Currently, voters can attest to their citizenship without these papers.

The second bill, Bill 1370would create the same requirement as HB 1569, but would also allow Scanlan's office to set up a phone line that local election officials could use to call state officials and request proof of a voter's citizenship. The Secretary of State's office could work with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Attorney General's office to do so, the bill says.

HB 1569 has passed both Republican-led chambers and now goes to the governor. HB 1370 has not yet gone to Sununu, but is waiting for the final vote by the House and Senate on Thursday.

Republicans have said the two bills are an attempt to build confidence in New Hampshire's elections by requiring strict verification that each voter meets citizenship, age and residency requirements.

But Democrats and voting rights advocacy groups argue that the bills would bar people who meet those requirements but do not have all the necessary documentation from voting – particularly citizenship documents, which are difficult to replace.

The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his discussions with Scanlan. In press conferences, Sununu has not directly stated whether he will sign or veto the bill, but he has said he sees no need for further changes to election law this year.

If Sununu signs the bills, both HB 1569 and HB 1370 would take effect immediately, meaning they would impact the state's upcoming primary election on September 10 and the general election on November 5.

Scanlan said immediate implementation would be difficult. “We would have to start immediately,” he said.

Scanlan said he has had “superficial” discussions with other agencies about the bill, but does not know exactly how the hotline would work if the bill becomes law.

Republicans argued that the hotline could provide citizenship information to most voters who lacked papers.

“Based on the databases we have created in our meetings with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General's office and the DMV, it is anticipated that there will be very, very few people who cannot answer the citizenship, age and residency questions,” Senator James Gray, a Republican from Rochester, said on the Senate floor on May 16.

But on Monday, Scanlan seemed more skeptical: “There is no central citizenship database,” he said.

The secretary made his comments before the Special Committee on Voter Confidence. That committee, convened by Scanlan to investigate voter concerns about New Hampshire's electoral process following the 2020 presidential election, completed its work and made recommendations in 2022. It reconvened Monday to hear a report from Scanlan detailing how his office has attempted to implement the recommendations.

Scanlan clarified that he has not yet taken an official position on the bill, and noted that if he signs it, his office could become a defendant in a lawsuit seeking to repeal the law.

“I firmly believe that there will be a legal dispute,” he said.

Anna Harden

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