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NH Campaign For Voting Rights Launches Three-Pronged Platform To Innovate Voting

NH Coalition(1) 

Concord, NH — New Hampshire advocacy groups and legislators announced a three pronged plan to strengthen integrity and build transparency into the voting process and improve access to the ballot box. The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights currently includes America Votes-New Hampshire, Open Democracy, New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters-New Hampshire, NextGen New Hampshire, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, People for the American Way, NAACP New England Area Conference, Granite State Progress and Fair Elections Legal Network.

The campaign’s platform includes three state legislative bills being introduced in the 2016 session:

  1. Implementing a statewide online voter registration system in 2017;
  2. Ensuring every voter has the same opportunity to vote on Election Day by standardizing polling hours from 6AM until 8PM;
  3. Creating an innovation grant system administered by the New Hampshire Secretary of State to support towns and cities to ensure they have the supplies, voting equipment for voters with physical impairments, absentee ballot envelopes and technical support to implement streamlined polling place and registration processes.

Former New Hampshire Charitable Foundation President and Open Democracy Advisory Board Member Lew Feldstein noted, “As the First-in-the-Nation primary state, New Hampshire has a strong reputation for voter participation. Nonetheless we have seen just one in five eligible voters consistently cast ballots in local elections, as documented in the Open Democracy Index. This campaign believes New Hampshire can become a model for the nation to administer inclusive, transparent and high integrity elections. We believe voting must be equally accessible to all citizens regardless of their income, race, gender, age or zip code. We support a voting system that is accessible and consistent for all.”

Plymouth State student and native New Hampshire voter Craig Cavanaugh explained, “I register for school, pay my taxes, cell phone bill and credit cards online. It just makes sense that the state would find a way to update the voter rolls year round so that when I graduate and update my mailing address, I can also go online and update my voter registration.”

Durham Town Council member and State Representative Wayne Burton (Strafford 6) suggested that, “the biggest barrier to working people, who are often taking care of aging parents and helping their children at the same time, is finding the time to vote before or after work.” He continued, “It all boils down to accessibility. If we want to prioritize civic engagement, we must equalize the playing field and support towns like Durham to keep their polling places open and work to reduce long lines with advance online registration. Your voting experience shouldn’t depend on your zip code or ward.”

State Senator David Pierce (District 5) closed the press conference by noting, “Cities and towns are the incubators of democracy. New Hampshire has a unique system where we elect volunteer Supervisors of the Checklist, Moderators and Town Clerks who have so many other responsibilities on their plates. The state legislature and Secretary of State must work together to bring New Hampshire online and ensure our elections processes are accessible to everyone – including people with physical impairments.”

Twenty-three states currently use online voter registration. Five more states will implement it this year, bringing that number to 28 by 2017 – the year when the proposed New Hampshire online voter registration bill would be implemented if passed this legislative session. Furthermore, 38 states have standardized polling hours for statewide elections. New Hampshire is also the only New England state that does not ensure that voting equipment is made available for those with physical impairments for every election, including municipal elections.

America Votes NH Is Looking For Strong Progressives To Take Part In “Emerging Leaders Boot Camp”

America Votes is proud to partner with New Leaders Council to host the
1st Annual Emerging Leaders Campaign School
Saturday September 26 and Sunday September 27 at Pembroke Academy.

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America Votes is looking for progressives to build a stronger network of activists and elected leaders in New Hampshire.  Please read the message from America Votes below:

As part of our long term vision to build progressive change and develop opportunities for America Votes partners and allies to build out membership, boards, staff and  policy champions,  we are launching the Emerging Leaders Boot Camp

The goal is to create a recurring training opportunity to pipeline and network our progressive talent. We also hope to on-ramp some of these leaders into our 2nd New Leaders Council Institute which will run from February to June 2016.  Learn more about the 2015 America Votes-New Leaders Council Fellows.   

We encourage those who have run in the past, have never run for office or who wish to become more effective issue advocates to participate.  

If you know individuals  who cannot afford the $50 fee, please contact me  directly.  It is our preference that everyone register online in advance. If you or your organization wishe to sponsor participants, we prefer that you register individuals directly on their behalf.   If this is a problem for your organization, please contact me to work out an alternative arrangement. 

Election Bill Creating Poll Tax, Residency Requirements Passes House Election Law Committee

SB179 would penalize New Hampshire voters
rather than improve elections

Concord, NH – Today the House Election Law Committee passed an elections bill along party lines (11-8) that creates unnecessary hurdles for New Hampshire voters by instituting an arbitrary vehicle registration “poll tax” and a 30-day residency requirement. The key features of SB 179, which also passed along party lines in the state Senate earlier this month (14-10), are likely unconstitutional at both the state and federal level.

The House Election Law Committee amended SB 179 to require voters to obtain a driver’s license and register their car in New Hampshire – a change that has no clear connection to maintaining the integrity of elections. New Hampshire’s constitution clearly states that “all elections are to be free,” and this amendment acts as a poll tax by charging engaged Granite Staters vehicle registration fees in order to vote.

Furthermore, SB 179 falls short of meeting the standards set in the United States Supreme Court case Dunn vs. Blumstein, which permitted up to a 30-day registration requirement in states that need it for administrative purposes. Given that New Hampshire is a same-day registration state, there is no compelling argument that the state’s election administration officials need the additional time.

“The sponsors of this legislation claim these restrictions will somehow stop voter fraud, but the proposed changes would penalize New Hampshire voters rather than help our elections,” explained League of Women Voters New Hampshire Election Law Specialist Joan Flood Ashwell. “There are many ways for voters to confirm their identity without forcing them to pay vehicle registration fees, and there are many ways to ensure they live in our state without a 30-day residency requirement. We can’t deny eligible voters the right to vote here in New Hampshire.”

Despite all evidence to the contrary, politicians continue to push restrictive election laws based on a false narrative of ‘phantom’ voters. New Hampshire attorney general investigations and a national Washington Post investigation** found that in-person voter impersonation and registration fraud is virtually non-existent.

America Votes-New Hampshire State Director Paula Hodges said, “SB 179 is one of more than a dozen dangerous bills proposed by radical lawmakers that would deter voters and undermine New Hampshire’s long-held tradition of streamlining voting. The various proposed bills range from eliminating same-day registration, to creating new inter-state cross-check programs that could purge thousands of eligible voters from the rolls. It’s clear these politicians are trying to influence elections by discouraging voters, and that’s wrong.”

“We urge the governor to veto SB 179 should it pass both chambers this year,” Hodges added.

Voting Rights Advocates Applaud Legislature’s Vote to Approve Compromise Voter ID Law

CONCORD, NH –Voting rights organizations applauded the New Hampshire Legislature’s adoption of the compromise voter ID bill that came out of negotiations between the House and Senate last week. The League of Women Voters New Hampshire, America Votes, the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and Granite State Progress all have a history of active engagement in education and advocacy efforts for voters in New Hampshire.

 

“This compromise legislation removes the worst provisions of the voter ID law adopted by the previous Legislature,” said Joan Flood Ashwell, election law specialist for the League of Women Voters New Hampshire. “The law passed today repeals some provisions of the current law that were set to go into effect this September. Instead of accepting just four kinds of federal and state photo IDs this September, this compromise retains many of the photo IDs and some other provisions of last November’s voter ID law.”

 

“We’re pleased that the House and Senate were able to overcome their serious differences and agree to make changes to the voter ID law adopted last year,” said Jess Clark, executive director of America Votes NH. “The cost and complexity of the original law were of huge concern to election officials as well as voting rights groups. This compromise will make it easier for qualified voters to meet ID requirements and will save towns from the headache and expense of trying to take photos of voters during busy Election Days.”

 

“Voter ID legislation not only harms students but senior citizens as well. A new provision in the compromise will allow voters over the age of 65 to use an expired driver’s or non-driver’s photo ID, expired passport, or expired military ID,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “This is an important protection as many senior citizens no longer drive or travel but have otherwise valid forms of identification. Without the compromise voter ID law, those senior citizens would have been required to take a voter mug shot on Election Day. Granny voter mug shots are the wrong policy for New Hampshire and we’re pleased the compromise bill is a more stream-lined and considerate way of ensuring our elders can continue to vote.”

 

“New Hampshire should be doing all it can to encourage eligible voters in our state to exercise their fundamental right to vote. The bill passed by the legislature today is an important first step in that direction,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. “Going forward we expect New Hampshire officials to continue to work to remove all unnecessary barriers to the polls.”

NH Senate Refuses To Work With House On Voter ID After Flip-Flopping On The Issue

Voter ID Will Cost an Estimated $11 Million Over the Next 4 Years While Harming Sweet Little Old Ladies Like This. 

CONCORD, NH – Senate Republicans refused to accept a legislative compromise today despite the fact that it would have reverted to the position they fought for just last session. The Committee of Conference disagreement on HB 595 overturns the Senate position from last year, will cost New Hampshire an estimated $11 million over the next four years,1 and jeopardizes access to the ballot for sweet little old ladies like Concord’s Mary Louise Hancock, age 92.

Mary Louise Hancock is a native of New Hampshire who served as state planning director and also as a State Senator. Hancock opposes the Republican legislation that requires photo identification in order to vote. Since 1941 she has voted without need to prove her identity. Hancock is well known for her activism in political matters and has been awarded Dunfey Kanteres and Eleanor Roosevelt citations for her efforts. She has hosted sessions through the years for presidential aspirants from Jesse Jackson to Hillary Clinton. At age 92, Senator Hancock has no intention of lessening her efforts to elect caring people to public office.

Mary Louise Hancock is a native of New Hampshire who served as state planning director and also as a State Senator. Hancock opposes the Republican legislation that requires photo identification in order to vote. Since 1941 she has voted without need to prove her identity. Hancock is well known for her activism in political matters and has been awarded Dunfey Kanteres and Eleanor Roosevelt citations for her efforts. She has hosted sessions through the years for presidential aspirants from Jesse Jackson to Hillary Clinton. At age 92, Senator Hancock has no intention of lessening her efforts to elect caring people to public office.

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“Senate Republicans have completely flip-flopped on this issue, endorsing more restrictive forms of ID and supporting costly voter mug shots, all of which will add expense and confusion to our polling places and all of which they previously opposed.” – Jessica Clark, State Director, America Votes

“Senate Republicans want your grandmother to pose for a voter mug shot like some sort of criminal just to obtain a ballot. It’s outrageous how much this voter ID scam will cost the state to purchase cameras, cords and printers for polling locations plus training, when that money could better be spent protecting essential health services from the chopping block Senate Republicans have placed them on.” – Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director, Granite State Progress 

 

1) America Votes & League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, Report on Anticipated Voter ID Costs, May 7, 2013
For more information: http://granitestateprogress.org/photo/senate-republicans-want-cut-services-and-jobs-while-spending-11-million-voter-mug-shots

Brace Yourself This May Hurt: NH Senate Moved Forward With Job Killing Budget

Yesterday labor leaders from throughout New Hampshire stood in the Legislative Office Building urging NH Senators to restore the proposed cuts to the NH Budget.

Well as you have probably already heard the NH Senate passed their budget with millions in cuts.   Yesterday at the press conference NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie stated:

“They are attacking New Hampshire middle class families by cutting jobs, cutting critical services and following an extreme agenda that comes from the same out of state special interests that fueled last session’s tea party behavior.”

Diana Lacey, President of the NH State Employees Association (SEIU 1984) really hit home in her explanation of these cuts.

“The Senate budget makes across-the-board cuts at DHHS and directs the Governor to reduce personnel costs by $50 million over the biennium. This means the elimination of as many as 700 jobs.  These workers provide critical services, pay taxes and contribute to the state’s economy. They are real people that will go on the unemployment line and go from self-sustaining to potentially needing public assistance instead of providing vital services for the state.”

If you remember that the last budget under Bill O’Brien cost New Hampshire over 1000 jobs. This budget would add another 700 to that.

Labor is not the only ones who are loosing as a result of this budget vote.  The Senate voted along party lines to reject the Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act.  Their vote rejects the $2.5 Billion over the next seven years, to cover the cost of expanding the Medicaid program.  So much for the state helping those needy families or the new jobs that would be created.

One other area that was noted at yesterdays press conference was the issue of Voter ID.  You may not think this is a budget issue but it is.  The State of New Hampshire will have to come up with over $11 million dollars to cover the costs of implementing phase two of the Voter ID law as passed last term.  Jessica Clark from America Votes told the crowd:

“They are willing to cut jobs and harm critical programs in our state, but waste taxpayer money on needless Voter ID legislation, which is project to cost up to $11 million over the next four years. Senate Republicans need to turn away from their misguided budget priorities that will harm New Hampshire families and voters.”

After today’s vote Governor Hassan had these stern words for the Senate:

“While there are clearly areas of agreement around critical priorities such as higher education, mental health funding, and economic development, the budget passed by the Senate still falls short in a number of areas that are imperative to moving our state forward. The across-the-board cuts to Health and Human Services and employees will impact critical services and cause hundreds of layoffs, and the rejection of $2.5 billion in federal funds for Medicaid expansion undermines efforts to strengthen our economy and improve the health and financial wellbeing of New Hampshire’s working families.

“As the process moves forward, legislators will need to take a bipartisan approach, set ideology aside, and listen to the people of New Hampshire in order to reach a final a balanced budget that reinvests in the priorities needed to build a more innovative economic future.”

The Senate Democratic Leader, Sylvia Larsen released this statement after the vote:

“This budget will cost hundreds of jobs and eliminate critical services for Granite Staters by sweeping, across-the-board cuts. The Senate Republican Budget forces the Health and Human Services Commissioner to cut millions of dollars threatening  funding for the developmental disability waitlist, the CHINS program, mental health care, community health centers, and family planning.”

“Although, I have serious concerns about this budget, I hope that by the end of the budget committee of conference, we in New Hampshire can rise above ideology and move forward with common sense solutions that meet the needs of our citizens.”

The budget process is far from over.  Now that the Senate passed their version of the budget a ‘committee of conference’ will be created to work out the differences between the two budgets.  This is where you can expect some serious fireworks and horse trading. The committee should be working to strengthen NH, not increasing our unemployment.

NH Senate Flip-Flops On Voter ID Provisions. Advocate Spending $1 Million Dollars After Slashing HHS Budgets

Senate Republicans change position on expensive camera provision at the polls, whether student identification cards are an acceptable form of Voter ID 

Advocate to spend $1 million dollars on Voter ID law same week they drastically cut services for elderly and disabled, mental health community in New Hampshire  

CONCORD, NH – Senate Republican leaders are flip-flopping on key provisions of the Voter ID fix bill up for a Senate floor vote this week, advocating for measures they disapproved of last session and opposing provisions they supported.

The New Hampshire State Senate will vote on HB 595 as amended by the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee on Thursday, May 23rd. The Senate amendment does not allow student identification cards or county and municipal identification cards to be used as acceptable forms of voter ID to obtain a ballot. In 2011 Senator Russell Prescott (R – Kingston) – who was the prime sponsor of the Voter ID law last session – testified in front of the House Election Law Committee that student identification cards should be included in the list of acceptable ID’s under the Voter ID law. He also testified that the Senate opposed wasting taxpayer dollars on the costly camera provision which requires colored photographs to be taken of individuals without acceptable forms of photo identification; this along with other phase II provisions of the Voter ID law are anticipated to cost the state nearly $1 million dollars over the next four years.

America Votes and Granite State Progress call on the Senate to not flip-flop on Voter ID provisions, and to instead prioritize Granite State families over costly Voter ID laws.

“It is unconscionable that the Senate would reverse their position and support one of the most restrictive ID laws in the country in order to target voters, specifically students, from exercising their right to vote,” said America Votes State Director Jessica Clark. “Even House Republicans agreed during recent committee meetings that we should not further restrict the forms of identification used during the last election, and not one person spoke in opposition.”

“Senate Republicans are fighting for an unnecessary law that will cost our state one million dollars in the short term alone, the same week they are drastically cutting essential health services for the elderly and disabled,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Senate Republican leaders have misplaced priorities. They should be working to help Granite Staters instead of attacking voting rights in our state.”

GSP Video: State Senator Russell Prescott on Voter ID: Student ID’s Acceptable (http://youtu.be/CHzKHXg3gZY)

“On the topic of, do we in general, accept student identification? And that should be yes, we should.”

GSP Video: State Senator Russell Prescott on Voter ID: Student ID’s Acceptable (http://youtu.be/J2kpbchE2O4)

 “The Senate position believes that if a person fills out a challenged voter affidavit, they are taking a large responsibility upon telling the truth and there really is no need to accept the funds.”

Sen. Prescott testified before the NH House Election Law Committee, April 10, 2012. The Senate must pass legislation that alters the New Hampshire Voter ID law this session or only four types of ID will be accepted to obtain a ballot starting September 2013. Individuals without an acceptable form of Voter ID will be required to have a color photo taken by a poll worker.

 

**ICYMI: Nashua Telegraph today also reports:  “Young Democrats, Republicans align to ask for change to voter ID

**NHLN post on college students opposing new voter ID changes include a letter from the NH Young Republicans and NH Young Democrats.

COURT ORDER CONFIRMS STUDENTS’ RIGHT TO VOTE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Concord, N.H.–Voting rights groups applauded Strafford Superior Court Judge John Lewis’ order, today, to the Secretary of State to issue new voter registration forms for this election. The new registration forms will delete a paragraph that advised all voters they would be subject to registering a car and getting a state driver’s license if they registered to vote. The order also instructs the Secretary of State to post new information on his website and to inform election officials in towns and cities to immediately begin using the corrected voter registration from.  This decision is based upon the recognition that individuals who are in the state for a limited period of time, such as students or persons doing military duty, have a absolute right to vote here while living in NH, but are unable to get NH drivers licenses because the motor vehicle law limits residents to those who intend to stay permanently or indefinitely.

“We are very pleased the Judge agreed with our concern that students who come to college in New Hampshire might give up their right to vote because of concerns about registering a car and getting a New Hampshire driver’s license even when they knew they would leave after graduation,” said Joan Flood Ashwell, election law specialist for the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire.

“The new paragraph on the voter registration form was confusing and misleading, and there was no clarifying information on the Secretary of State’s website. Now, the website will state clearly the difference between domicile for voting and residence for motor vehicles purposes, and it will clearly state that out-of-state college students do not have to register a car in New Hampshire or get a state driver’s license as a condition for voting,” she said.

The petition for an injunction against the law was filed by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four college students who came from other states to study in New Hampshire and who plan to leave after their studies are complete. The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and Joan Flood Ashwell were also plaintiffs. America Votes New Hampshire works closely with the League and the NHCLU on election issues.

Labor and Civil Liberties Organizations Come Together To Fight Against NH Voter ID Law

Organizations from across New Hampshire have come together to urge the Justice Department to reject the new Voter ID law.

A coalition including League of Women Voters, N.H. Civil Liberties Union, America Votes, American Friends Service Committee, Credo SuperPAC, Demos, Fair Election Legal Network, Granite State Independent Living, Latinos Unidos, NAACP Branch 2070, NH AFL-CIO, NH Citizens Alliance, NH Young Democrats, NEA-NH, SEIU Local 1984,  Service Employees International Union and Working Families Win submitted letters today to the U.S. Department of Justice asking the Department to deny pre-clearance of the state’s new voter photo identification law (Chapter 284) and new voter registration law (Chapter 285).

New Hampshire is required to submit all changes in voting laws to the U.S. Department of Justice for pre-clearance before the laws can go into effect. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires the department to deny pre-clearance of state laws that have either a discriminatory purpose or the effect of suppressing the right to vote on account of race or color or membership in a language minority.

“There’s no legitimate reason for the radical changes the photo ID law makes to the way we vote in New Hampshire,” said Joan Flood Ashwell, election law specialist for the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire. “Years of investigations by the Attorney General’s office have confirmed that we don’t have a problem with voter impersonation fraud. That’s not surprising since that kind of voter fraud is virtually unheard of anywhere in the United States. We believe the real intent of this photo ID law is to make it more difficult for certain groups of people to vote, including students, the elderly, minorities and the disabled.

“Members of the House and Senate heard testimony that thousands of New Hampshire citizens don’t have a photo ID 25,000 to 50,000 according to the Secretary of State,” Ashwell said. “In this presidential election, students will be able to use their student IDs but that will change in 2013 when the law becomes the strictest in the United States. It will be unnecessarily more difficult for students to vote, especially those who come here from other states and are much more likely to be minorities.”

Jessica Clark, political and field director of America Votes, said the ever-changing requirements of the photo ID law and the lack of an education program seemed designed to discourage people from even trying to vote.

“We’ve already seen incorrect headlines in the papers saying that a photo ID will be needed to vote this November,” Clark said. “This is an overly complex law that requires a statewide education campaign using newspapers, TV and radio in addition to brochures and handouts. Some members of the House Election Law Committee tried to include an education campaign in the law but that was rejected by the sponsors of the legislation and by the House and Senate leadership. Voters need to know that they can sign an affidavit and obtain a ballot. In 2013, they’ll have to have a photo taken as well. America Votes believes the affidavit and photo are offensive and unnecessary but we also believe people should know there’s an option that is better than no vote at all.”

The second law, Chapter 285, changes the voter registration form to include a statement requiring people to agree that they must register their car in New Hampshire and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days of registering to vote. The wording of the new voter registration form contradicts New Hampshire motor vehicle laws which make it illegal for those who intend to leave New Hampshire at a specific point in time to register a car or obtain a driver’s license in New Hampshire.

“Chapter 285 is an attempt to change the definition of ‘domicile’ in Part 1, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution,” said Claire Ebel, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. “A 1984 New Hampshire Supreme Court decision – George J. Every v. Supervisors of the Madison Checklist  – defined ‘domicile’ as distinct from residence. According to Ebel, “There is no question that Chapter 285  is meant to keep out-of-state college students from being able to register and vote in New Hampshire However, that question was decided by a federal district court decision in 1972 in Newberger v. Peterson, which established the right of students to vote where they attend school.  Students, visiting faculty, members of the military and others who know that they will leave New Hampshire at some definite point in the future have the right to register and to vote here while they live here.”

The coalition’s submissions describe the two new election laws as retrogressive and discriminatory and said they will reduce minority voting across the state. They criticize the Legislature for not presenting data to determine the impact of the laws, especially since these issues were brought to their attention repeatedly in hearings and in letters. The coalition said the laws are unnecessary, and the Justice Department should deny preclearance because the state failed to meet its burden under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

 

 

Will You Be Effected By The New Voter ID Laws In NH?

This year the NH Legislature passed sweeping reforms in order to vote.  Even though we fought back against Voter ID laws the misguided leadership in the NH House pushed it through.  Now we need to work together to ensure that everyone know what they need to vote.

America Votes, an ally of the AFL-CIO  is working to protect our rights to vote and ensure every votes in this crucial election.  They are looking to find and help anyone who would not be able to vote because of these changes.    .

From America Votes:
This year the NH Legislature passed a bill, HB 1354, that will require a voter to show a photo ID at the polls when they go to vote. This year if a voter doesn’t have an ID they will be allowed to sign an affidavit that will allow them to vote.  We want to hear from you about how this legislation will impact you and your family.  Did a grandparent give up their driver’s license?  Does your 18 year old not have ID yet because they don’t drive?  Are you an out of state student worried about the impact? Send your story to jclark@americavotes.org.

America Votes will help to answer your questions about the new Voter ID laws.  All you need to do is tell them why you may not be able to vote under these new election laws.  They can and will help you.  It is your Constitutional Right to vote, don’t let anyone try to take that away. Know your rights and be prepared when the time comes!

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