CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire House rejected a proposal Thursday to repeal the state’s voter identification law, instead passing legislation that would prevent tighter regulations from taking effect until the attorney general’s office completes an inquiry into the last election.
Rep. Timothy Horrigan, D-Durham, argued for repeal, saying the voter ID law is “an excessive solution to a virtually nonexistent problem.” Horrigan said no evidence of voter fraud exists in the state.
But Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, countered that voter fraud in New Hampshire has never been found because no one has looked for it. Jasper said a number of “suspicious” cases from 2012 could prove to be fraud. He added that even if fraud isn’t widespread it could tip the scales in tight elections.
Voters who did not have ID and signed affidavits in 2012 saying they were legally registered voters received a mailer from the Secretary of State to verify their identity. They were given 90 days after receipt to return them. Several thousand came back as undeliverable and the attorney general’s office is currently conducting a review of those cases.
The House voted largely along party lines Thursday to pass the measure that would freeze provisions of the law until the review is completed. Under the measure, voters would be required to show a photo ID before obtaining a ballot – including student IDs and other forms of identification that were allowed during the 2012 election.
But the measure would prevent the next phase of current law from taking effect in September 2013, when election officials would be required to photograph voters without identification before handing them a ballot and when acceptable identification would be limited to driver’s licenses, state-issued identification cards, passports, and military IDs.
Critics say photographing voters would be an exorbitant cost to the state and may be intimidating to those who don’t have photo ID. Others say the photo record would act as a deterrent to fraud.
The state estimates a one-time cost of $82,000 to purchase digital cameras and other materials for polling stations and a cost of $60,000 per year to take photos of people without ID. The $82,000 is not included in Gov. Maggie Hassan’s proposed budget for the next biennium.