If we really want to have the voter registration laws in New Hampshire mean something as far as ballot integrity, this writer humbly suggests the following steps as solutions:
- Eliminate same-day registration. Cause the voter checklists to be “closed” a reasonable time before each election, say 30 days or 60 days, after which if you have not registered before the closing date you do not get to vote. This is the process done in most states.
Even if this requires New Hampshire to comply with the federal motor voter law, the reduction in potentially fraudulent registrations and the expenses incurred for follow up to try to verify the actual domiciles of same day registrants (which often does not actually occur) would be eliminated and the improvement in the integrity of our elections would be well worth whatever the cost.
2. Repeal the following section of our RSA’s:
654:1 I-a. “A student of any institution of learning may lawfully claim domicile for voting purposes in the New Hampshire town or city in which he or she lives while attending such institution of learning if such student’s claim of domicile otherwise meets the requirements of RSA 654:1, I”
[RSA 654:1, I provides “I. Every inhabitant of the state, having a single established domicile for voting purposes, being a citizen of the United States, of the age provided for in Article 11 of Part First of the Constitution of New Hampshire, shall have a right at any meeting or election, to vote in the town, ward, or unincorporated place in which he or she is domiciled. An inhabitant’s domicile for voting purposes is that one place where a person, more than any other place, has established a physical presence and manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence for domestic, social, and civil purposes relevant to participating in democratic self-government. A person has the right to change domicile at any time, however a mere intention to change domicile in the future does not, of itself, terminate an established domicile before the person actually moves”].
3. Limit those qualified to vote in the primary elections conducted by the state for the recognized political parties to only those voters who are registered as members of that particular party. In other words, only registered Democrats should be able to vote in the Democrat primaries and only registered Republicans should be able to vote in the Republican primary. It would seem logical that the selection of the standard bearer for a political party who will be running under that party’s banner in a general election should be selected in the party primary only by those who are actually registered as members of that party.
RSA 654:1 I-a, above, appears to encourage students attending college in New Hampshire to vote in New Hampshire elections, rather than encouraging them to vote absentee in the states from which they happened to leave to go off to college in our state. With the recent decisions by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, it is even more questionable why out-of-state students attending college in our state should have a special provision of our law effectively encouraging them to vote here.
It appears that the principal objections to having to follow the federal motor voter law have been raised by certain elected official and state employees who might have to do some extra work, e.g. the Town Clerks and Supervisors of the Checklist and the staff of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
But such officials and employees in most other states seem to be able to do whatever is required of them to comply with Motor Voter without any extraordinary difficulty.
It is long past time that we clean up our voter registration system.
The author was a member of the New Hampshire House Election Law Committee during the 2017-2018 biennium.