New Hampshire Supreme Court strikes down voter resident law

New Hampshire Supreme Court strikes down voter resident law

[JURIST] The New Hampshire Supreme Court [official website] on Friday struck down a 2012 law requiring voters to be state residents, not just domiciled in the state. In its decision to uphold the lower court ruling, the court stated that the law that essentially required voters to acquire a driver’s license in New Hampshire was unconstitutional and could potentially discourage people from voting. The court noted that the language of the law is confusing and inaccurate, potentially causing voter confusion and therefore placing too high a burden on the essential right to vote. The law was enacted in 2012 when the legislature passed SB 318 [text] requiring voters to sign an affidavit that they were subject to state residency laws, including signing up for a driver’s license. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] argued that the language was too confusing and wrongly required the voter to intend to remain living in the state for the indefinite future. The group argued that such a restriction could prevent people such as college students from voting. The court rejected the state’s argument that the law was enacted to comply with the Help America Vote Act [EAC backgrounder].

Voting rights have been a contentious issue in the US recently. In March the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST report] in Frank v. Walker, allowing Wisconsin’s voter identification law to stand. Wisconsin’s Act 23, which requires residents to present photo ID to vote, was struck down by a federal district court, but reinstated [JURIST reports] by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in September. Also in March Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a new law [JURIST report] that made Oregon the first state in the nation to institute automatic voter registration. In November a federal appeals court rejected [JURIST report] a Kansas rule that required prospective voters to show proof-of-citizenship documents before registering using a federal voter registration form. Also in November Illinois voters approved the Illinois Right to Vote Amendment [JURIST report] which bans all voter discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or income.