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February 16, 2013

N.H. Voter ID Law under attack

Phase II to take effect this fall

A year after New Hampshire asked voters to present photo identifications at the polls, state lawmakers are considering repeal of the new Voter ID Law.

Bills introduced in the House and Senate would end the practice.

Other House and Senate bills, meanwhile, would repeal the second phase of implementation of the law or delay it for a year.

That phase would require election workers to photograph voters who refuse to present a a photo ID and instead sign an affidavit swearing to their identity. The photo would go with the affidavit.

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters of New Hampshire are among those advocating repeal.

"Studies consistently document that voter ID requirements have a negative impact on civic participation and disproportionately suppress voters who are elderly, minorities or who have lower incomes," NHCLU executive director Devon Chaffee told a House panel in testimony this month favoring repeal.

But the law has strong defenders in powerful positions in the Legislature.

"Last year, for the first time, New Hampshire voters could rest assured that the electoral process in New Hampshire was more secure," House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said in opposing repeal. "It's unfortunate we have to re-examine voter ID measures, which a bipartisan majority of voters support. It would be helpful if we could observe how the process works for more than just one election before having to examine repealing it."

Chaffee warns of more trouble ahead with the law. Phase II changes, slated for September in time for municipal primaries, would end acceptance of student IDs to vote.

"That would not be allowed," she said.

Questions are being raised about whether special voter IDs issued by the state last year, which bear no expiration, would still be valid when Phase II, which requires expiration dates, is implemented, Chaffee said.

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