CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s Senate is voting next week on whether voters must show photo identification at the polls before casting ballots, but unlike a bill vetoed last year, the latest measure does not contain a provision that would delay the counting of some votes.

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union says the bill is unnecessary but is not opposing it, and Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley expects the Senate to pass it to the House.

“There is no need for this bill, but since something is going to pass, this is the most responsible and we believe it is constitutional,” said Claire Ebel of the civil liberties union.

Bradley said the penalty for voting illegally – a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison – should deter most people from committing voter fraud. “Just the fact that voters are going to be asked to show an ID at the polls when they get in is going to solve 99.9 percent of potential voter fraud issues and maybe even 100 percent,” he said.

The bill is less restrictive than one Gov. John Lynch vetoed last year. That bill allowed voters who did not have valid identification to cast a provisional ballot and gave them 2 1/2 days to produce a valid photo ID. Local election clerks said the provisional ballot would be difficult and costly to administer.

Ebel said that provision also was unconstitutional. The new bill does not segregate votes and count them later.


“You vote just like everyone else,” she said.

Lynch had also objected in his veto message that the types of IDs honored were too narrow. He said a state trooper could use a state agency-issued ID to vote, but local police department IDs would not be honored.

Colin Manning, Lynch’s press secretary, said Tuesday that Lynch is open to considering voter ID legislation, “but the legislation would have to protect people’s constitutional right to vote and ensure every vote is counted.”

Manning said Lynch also would want to talk to the secretary of state about any voter ID bills before deciding if he would support them. Manning said it is too early to comment more on the Senate bill because it has not been considered by the House.

The new bill expands acceptable identifications, allows local election officials to verify a person’s identity without an ID and lets people sign an affidavit to vote. The Secretary of State’s Office would send letters to the addresses provided by voters signing the affidavits for them to return as proof of identity.

The Attorney General’s Office would investigate if the letters either were not returned by the voter or returned by the post office as undeliverable.


Under the bill, valid ID would include a New Hampshire driver’s license even if it had expired, a state-issued photo ID in lieu of a driver’s license, an armed services identification card, a U.S. passport regardless of expiration date and any other valid photo ID issued by a federal, state, county or municipal government, a valid student ID card. Additionally, local election officials could allow other photo identification not outlined by the bill, but if someone challenged the decision the voter would have to fill out an affidavit to vote.

People without an acceptable photo ID also could get a voucher from the town or city clerk exempting them from the $10 fee for photo IDs produced by the state for people relinquishing their driver’s licenses. The ID would be marked “for voter identification only.”

Bradley said town and city clerks asked for the provision allowing them to verify someone’s identity if they couldn’t produce a photo ID.

“We’ll see how it works. I think we can trust local election officials,” he said.

Bradley said the bill reflects compromises needed to win support, or in the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union case, neutrality. He said it does not bar voters without photo IDs from voting, but that may not be needed in New Hampshire.

“I think this will be sufficient,” he said.

The legislation calls for the voter ID requirement to take effect this year if it is enacted. The requirement for voters without ID to fill out affidavits would not take effect until next year, said state Sen. Russell Prescott, the bill’s prime sponsor.

Prescott, R-Kiingston, said the bill would shore up the system without requiring provisional ballots, which he opposes.


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