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NH State Senators Birdsell and Gray Named To ‘Voter Suppression Hall of Shame’

Kansas City, MO – Let America Vote today named New Hampshire State Senators Regina Birdsell and James Gray to its Voter Suppression Hall of Shame, a list of the country’s most active vote-suppressing politicians that Let America Vote will track in 2018 to fight back against any future efforts to make voting less accessible.

Senator Birdsell was the prime sponsor of SB 3 a bill that severely tightens qualifications for voting in New Hampshire and potentially criminalizes legitimate same-day registration voters who know they cannot provide proof that they have performed a so-called “verifiable act,” such as buying a home or entering a formal lease — thereby effectively disenfranchising elderly, low income, and other vulnerable citizens, especially those who move in the months before an election and are unable to obtain sufficient proof. Under SB3, a voter who knowingly fails to provide evidence of domicile within 10 days faces a fine up to $5,000.

Now the voter suppression team of Senators Birdsell and Gray are pushing HB372 a bill that forces people to officially change their residency to NH in order to vote, creating a poll tax.  The bill is directly targeted at college students who, under state law, are allowed to register and vote in New Hampshire.

“The New Hampshire GOP passed a law last year that severely limits the voting rights of college students, but Senators Birdsell and Gray don’t think it went far enough,” said Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote. “HB 372, which is championed by Senators Birdsell and Gray, would create harsh restrictions for college students that would keep a huge number of them from voting altogether. They’re pioneers of this kind of voter suppression, which is why they belong in the Voter Suppression Hall of Shame. When Let America Vote expands to New Hampshire in 2018, we’ll make sure that these senators answer for stripping voting rights from their constituents.”

The list contains ten politicians from nine different states whom either introduced or supported politically-motivated legislation that would prevent targeted groups of the electorate from voting. The goals of the Hall of Shame are to expose the politicians for suppressing votes, call attention to their next elections, and educate voters on how to hold them accountable.

Birdsell and Gray join these other vote suppressors on the Voter Suppression Hall of Shame:

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State
Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State
John Merrill, Alabama Secretary of State
Paul Pate, Iowa Secretary of State
Connie Lawson, Indiana Secretary of State
Bob Thorpe,  Arizona State Representative
Juan Murante, Nebraska State Senator
Tim Moore,  North Carolina State Representative

 


Let America Vote launched in February 2017 to fight back against proposals across the country that make it harder for eligible voters to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot. Whether it’s extreme identification requirements, questionable purges of voter rolls, voter intimidation, new and extreme voter registration processes, or anything that makes voting harder, Let America Vote will be there to lead the way against it. Its president is Jason Kander, the former Missouri Secretary of State.

Election Law Changes Aimed At Blocking College Students From Voting In NH, Passes Senate Committee

Today, an amendment  to House Bill 372, authored by Republican Senators Regina Birdsell and Jim Gray, passed the Senate Election Law Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote. The bill would redefine “domicile” status for voting purposes, effectively forcing registrants to declare residency upon registering to vote, chilling the right to vote for college students in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Republicans have previously argued that their voter disenfranchisement laws, like SB3 which passed last spring, are not designed to disenfranchise college students. Birdsell, SB3’s author and an author of the amendment to HB 372, said last year“We are not targeting students.” Birdsell’s amendment to HB 372 would in fact use intimidation tactics to disenfranchise thousands of students attending college in New Hampshire.

“HB 372 serves one purpose: to drastically decrease student turnout on campuses across New Hampshire,” said University of New Hampshire sophomore Isabella Arms. “Thousands of students, like me, move to New Hampshire every year to learn and contribute to our communities, with the hope of staying here to start our careers. However every year, Republicans in Concord make it their priority to disenfranchise the exact group of people they need to attract and retain in order for our state to grow and thrive. The state benefits from students like us when it means getting more federal money or electoral clout, but they don’t think we count when it comes to voting for local issues that affect us, including preventing tuition hikes or investing in workforce training.

When Governor Sununu and Republican leadership raise our tuitions and make it more difficult for us to vote and take part in the democratic process, it’s hard to take them seriously as champions for my generation like they so often claim to be. I speak on behalf of many concerned Granite State students when I say we hope this bill is rejected when it comes to a full Senate vote,” Arms concluded.

“Senator Sanborn’s amendment to House Bill 372 is the New Hampshire GOP’s latest attempt to stop college students from voting,” said Let America Vote President Jason Kander. “Last session’s Senate Bill 3 is still in court, but that isn’t keeping Republicans from trying to further stop eligible New Hampshire voters from voting. When a college student registers to vote, they shouldn’t be threatened with possible legal penalties for how their car is registered. Voter registration should be a simple, straightforward process for all eligible Granite Staters. This is classic voter suppression, and it’s clearly a Republican priority to stop college students in New Hampshire from being able to vote in the state where they spend the most time. When Let America Vote opens its New Hampshire office next year, we’ll make sure that elected officials like Senator Sanborn have to answer for this.”

“For years, Republicans have been slowly eroding voting rights in New Hampshire. HB 372 would effectively disenfranchise thousands of legal Granite State voters,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.  “New Hampshire Republicans like Governor Sununu and Senator Birdsell have been trying to trick New Hampshire voters into believing there is widespread voter fraud to create a pretext for voter disenfranchisement legislation that would help swing elections in their favor.”

Buckley added, “Granite Staters who care about their most fundamental right to make their voices heard should stand up and fight this bill until it disappears for good. We will not allow Trump, Sununu & Birdsell to strip away foundational democratic guarantees based on a lie designed to serve their political objectives.”

Trump’s Sham Commission On Voting Integrity Meets In New Hampshire

Yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity convened their second official meeting at St. Anslem College, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The group, led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, who is currently the Kansas Secretary of State, continued to take aim at our voting rights.

Kobach gained local notoriety over the past week as he made the claim that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because of thousands of illegal votes from out of state residents. He claimed that because 3,000 people voted in NH with out of state licenses that their votes were examples of voter fraud. The claim was quickly debunked due to the fact that NH does not require voters to have NH drivers license or to register their automobile with the state in order to legally vote.

“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “This Commission has no claim to credibility after failing to condemn last week’s out-and-out lies from Vice Chair Kris Kobach about our state’s voters. Granite Staters should consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”

“Study after study, report and report, and even previous commissions have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and always very isolated,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. “That is proof that the current protections are working, but we have policies and technologies in place to allow us to facilitate the participation in the political process to more and more citizens. We have a moral obligation to do that.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently serving the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C, submitted written testimony to the commission.

In her testimony, Senator Shaheen condemns the commission’s clear intention to make it more difficult for Granite Staters to vote, writing, “The truth is that, here in New Hampshire and across the nation, voter fraud is extremely rare. I am deeply concerned that falsehoods about illegal voting are being spread as a pretext for restricting access to the ballot box. This risks disenfranchising eligible voters and undermining faith in our democracy.”

“Granite Staters take pride in our state’s brand of open and direct democracy, which encourages maximum participation, including by college students and active-duty members of the military who live in our state.  It is not the New Hampshire way to make voting unnecessarily difficult or to target specific groups of voters with deliberately onerous ID laws,” Shaheen wrote.

Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen in submitting legislation to disband the commission.

“I am deeply concerned that since its inception President Trump’s voting commission has attempted to mislead voters and erode trust in the voting process by pushing misleading claims that have been debunked time and again. It is clear that this commission is simply a partisan exercise to lay the groundwork for new attempts at voter suppression, which is why I joined Senator Shaheen in cosponsoring a bill to disband the commission.”

“President Trump’s voter commission has been formed with the predetermined conclusion that voter fraud is a widespread problem and that restrictive voter ID laws are necessary to safeguard our democracy,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is despite the fact there is no evidence of such fraud. Rather than protecting our democracy, voter suppression efforts threaten to undermine the legitimate right of people to exercise their self-determination at the ballot box.”

Kuster added, “The accusations levied by Secretary Kobach are an insult to thousands of local officials and volunteers, both Republican and Democrat, who ensure our free and fair elections in New Hampshire and make the Granite State worthy of being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

“Our elected officials should be working to facilitate civic involvement and build voter participation, especially amongst college students and younger voters,” said St. Anselm student Olivia Teixeira on behalf of the NH Young Democrats. “Instead, with sham commissions like the one meeting today on my campus and through bills like SB 3, Republican’s are using baseless lies of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress voter turnout.”

“If we want to  attract and retain young people to our state, we should be working to empower younger voters to take part in our state’s proud democratic process by advocating for modernizing our voting systems and registration,” Teixeira added.

Aside from the continued discussion on the non-existent voter fraud problem the commission also discussed possible solutions to “strengthen” the integrity of the election process.

At one point, John Lott, a right-wing shill, proposed the idea of using the same background check system we currently use to buy firearms to verify a voters’ eligibility.  Lott is new to “voting rights” advocates however he is well know in “gun rights” circles.  Even before Lott presented his skewed testimony, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a warning, not to believe Lott’s “fuzzy math.”

“Lott’s statistical analysis includes far too many variables and controls – a tell-tale sign of statistical chicanery,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.

Additionally, Commission member and former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, suggested that long lines at the polls were a “good strategy.” This is the same man who “distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters.”

“Today, we met the various characters who decorate Trump’s sham commission. Unfortunately, their fringe conspiratorial thinking is not a caricature but an understatement,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley. “From absurd proposals to run registered voters through background checks to one commission member calling the creation of long voting lines a ‘good strategy’ to Kobach re-asserting his claim of voter fraud in New Hampshire, it’s clear this commission has an agenda, the focus of which is voter suppression. Kobach showed he was willing to lie to the Granite Staters’ faces about New Hampshire law and embarrass Secretary Gardner in his own state by delegitimizing election results.”

“This is a commission that welcomes, absorbs, and operates in conspiracy. President Trump is getting his way when this commission entertains baseless voter fraud claims, muddying the waters and creating uncertainty and distrust in our election system.” Buckley added.

Outside, over a hundred people gathered to protest Trump’s “sham commission.” Among the protesters were members of the NH Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of New Hampshire, America Votes, the NAACP, Granite State Progress, Mayday.US, and the national group Let America Vote.

The protests also garnered a special appearance from Cleanup Carl. “Cleanup Carl is a 12 ft tall superhero for democracy. Committed to taking on the dirty villains trying to destroy our democracy with their toxic anti-voter influence.” Cleanup Carl is project of grassroots democracy organization MAYDAY America.

“This commission is the real threat. It’s a toxic mix for our democracy!” said Cleanup Carl through his spokesperson MAYDAY National Campaign Director Chris Tallent. “New Hampshire residents and Americans should take caution! Some of the most dangerous contaminants known to democracy, Kris Kobach, Mike Pence, and the rest of the sham ‘election integrity’ commission will be in New Hampshire this morning to try to advance their dirty agenda. That’s a volatile mix for democracy! Time to clean ‘em out of our democracy and uphold the right for everyone’s voice to be heard!”

Many of the people outside were also calling on NH’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, to resign from this “sham” commission.

“One thing is clear: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t belong with this cast of conspiratorial misfits,” said Buckley. “He has carried out free and fair elections for over four decades and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive, incorrect and dangerous. Gardner cannot risk sullying New Hampshire’s sterling reputation by remaining on a commission that is willing to travel to our state to insult us in service of a baseless conspiracy designed to suppress votes.”

Gardner, who is currently the longest serving Secretary of State, is “being used by the Trump/Pence sham commission,” said a group of New Hampshire Voters who recently started a petition calling for Gardner to resign his position in the commission.

In response to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, the Democratic National Committee joined with allies and created the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The DNC held a press call to explain how the Trump administration’s voter fraud commission is working to suppress the fundamental democratic rights of Americans and to lay out the steps that Democrats are taking to fight back.

“Make no mistake: this isn’t a war on voter fraud, it’s a war on voters. And it’s only being waged by Republicans, and we will not let our guard down for a moment.  As Democrats, our goal is the engage every eligible American voter as an active participant in our democracy,” said Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC. “We want to make it easier for people who are eligible to vote, not harder for them to vote.  And that means fighting voter suppression tactics to create free, fair, and accessible elections.  We must protect the one right that preserves all others—the right to vote.”

“Instead of building themselves around policies that reach out to communities like minorities and low incomes folks and the elderly and the disabled, instead of doing that, they’re just going to exclude those folks from democracy.  That’s their solution.  And it’s cynical, and it’s wrong, and it’s un-American,” Jason Kander, Chair of the DNC commission, former Missouri Secretary of State, and President of Let America Vote. “We’ve had this argument before in America.  Folks marched across a bridge, American heroes did, in Selma.  And they faced batons, they faced down dogs and hoses, and it was all for the simple idea that in America everybody counts.  We shouldn’t go backward.  We should only go forward on these issues.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed public comments outlining the glaring problems with the Commission including its lack of ideological diversity or commitment to transparency in accordance with federal law.

“Today’s Commission meeting in New Hampshire lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination that we know prevents racial minorities from voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Instead, Kris Kobach and his colleagues continued marshaling data in misleading ways to continue building a false narrative that voter fraud exists.  This myth has been widely discredited, and yet we listened to commissioners reiterate these claims in ways that proved truly irresponsible.”

“Today’s Commission meeting must be viewed in the context of a Justice Department that has all but abandoned its obligation to enforce laws that would eliminate voting discrimination.  The Commission is part of the administration’s broader agenda to promote national policies that would make it harder for minority communities to vote,” Clarke concluded.

NH Superior Court Blocks Penalties Within SB 3 (Voter Suppression Bill)

NH Superior Court put penalties for voter suppression law SB 3 on hold, siding with NH Democratic Party 

Nashua, N.H. – This morning, Hillsborough County Superior Court South put penalties for violating SB 3 on hold and granted both parties standing, siding with the New Hampshire Democratic Party on both key issues. The decision was a response to NHDP filing a preliminary injunction against the law. The case will now be heard in full, with both plaintiffs granted standing.

SB 3 would impose immense burdens on eligible New Hampshire voters, and is designed to have a disproportionate effect on young people, low-income, elderly and disabled voters who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

“This order is a victory for voting rights in New Hampshire. The court’s decision to strip the law of its penalties shows exactly how burdensome and intimidating they are. It proves the state cannot threaten people with criminal prosecution for merely registering to vote,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “This order offers no good news for the state, who will now have to argue the entirety of this law on the merits. We know the state’s fight is a losing one, and one we will keep fighting, as NHDP has been has granted our day in court.”

“Most importantly, today’s order means voters are protected from the law’s intimidating penalties, continued Buckley. “This victory means that voters can exercise their most fundamental right to have a voice in our democracy without fear or intimidation. If even one voter is disenfranchised, we will stand up and fight it. We don’t intend to disappoint the long list of American heroes and martyrs who have risked so much for the right to have a voice at the ballot box. We are confident the full law will be declared unconstitutional.”

“This is a victory for voting rights.  As the Court held, the punishment portion of SB 3 imposed a severe restriction on the right to vote.  This portion was particularly problematic because it would have criminalized certain voters who simply do not have the required documentation,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director, ACLU of New Hampshire.

“Today’s ruling is a rebuke of the Republican effort to intimidate and disenfranchise New Hampshire voters and a win for voting rights,” said NH Senate Democratic Leader, Jeff Woodburn. “The court’s determination to strip the penalties in SB 3 because they are a serious deterrent to voting is vindication for those fighting to protect the fundamental right to vote. This is a strong first step in what will be a long fight for justice. Senate Democrats remain firm in our commitment to defend the right to vote and will continue to push back against the ongoing attack on New Hampshire voters.”

“Men and women from New Hampshire have fought in foreign lands to protect our rights at home, most importantly our right to vote,” said House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff. “The House Democratic Caucus is doing everything we can to protect that right, and we were in full support of the lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters.  Today’s court ruling affirms everything House Democrats have said about SB 3 throughout the process.”

“As the court ruling stated, SB 3 places ‘severe’ restrictions on voters that act as ‘a very serious deterrent on the right to vote.’  The ruling also noted that no ‘compelling’ need for SB 3 was presented to the Court.”

“Laws that deter voters through severe restrictions have no place in New Hampshire, especially when lawmakers cannot present any compelling reason for enacting it.  House Democrats will continue to do all we can to protect voters from unnecessary attempts to restrict voter rights,” Shurtleff concluded.

“The right to vote shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Republicans in Concord are trying to change the way we hold elections so that it’s easier for them to win re-election. Now the New Hampshire Democratic Party is standing up for the thousands of Granite Staters who risk disenfranchisement under SB3, and they should be applauded for that,” said Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote.

“Instead of making an honest effort to earn the votes of New Hampshire college students, Republicans have decided to simply exclude them from the election process. Governor Sununu lost all credibility when he echoed President Trump’s lie that voters were being bussed in from other states to vote for Democrats in 2016. Governor Sununu has made it clear that he doesn’t value the free and fair elections that make up the cornerstone of our democracy, and he should pay for it during his next election.

“New Hampshire voters will make their argument in court for why this unconstitutional voter suppression law has no place in their state, but we also have to take this fight into the court of public opinion. Let America Vote exists to make politicians think twice before excluding eligible voters from elections to create a political advantage. Republican vote suppressors in New Hampshire will feel the legal and political heat of their missteps through the next election cycle,” Kander concluded.

SB 3’s provisions:

  • Create two different forms for those registering more than 30 days out from an election and those registering within the 30-day period
  • Deny those without paperwork the right to register more than 30 days out from an election
  • Force registrants to read & sign a long & confusing document comprehension experts say is written at a graduate-student reading level
  • Lengthen lines and dissuade voters from turning out due to the longer and more complicated same-day registration requirements
  • Mandate that voters who signed an affidavit bring evidence to verify their intent to remain in the state within 10 days after an election
  • Subject those who failed to deliver that evidence within 10 days to investigation and possible civil and criminal penalty of and a $5,000 fine
  • Appoint investigators, who could be anyone from police to the town conspiracist, to come to your door in their completion of a voter fraud investigation against you

SB 3 is the first voter suppression law passed in the Trump era. It was based on the “belief” of voter fraud rather than any evidence. President Trump and Governor Sununu’s lies about Democrats busing voters across the state border to vote illegally created a pretext for this suppressive law. Sununu signed it into law in July.

NH Democratic Party Files Lawsuit Against Republican Voter Suppression Law (SB 3)

Concord, N.H. – Today, the New Hampshire Democratic Party filed a lawsuit with the Hillsborough County Superior Court on SB 3, the voter suppression law that was passed and signed into law this spring by a Republican legislative majority and Republican Governor Chris Sununu.

Legal issues with SB 3 include:

  • Registering to vote requires a “verifiable act” to demonstrate intent to be domiciled in the state
  • Legitimately domiciled voters could be denied the right to register by failing to present the new paperwork more than 30 days out from Election Day
  • A different, more lengthy registration form is required to be signed under penalty of voting fraud within 30 days of Election Day, opening themselves to investigation or being forced to provide documentation after an election

These burdens fall disproportionately on young, low-income and minority groups who are more likely to be transient or register closer to election day, creating arbitrary and differential treatment of eligible New Hampshire voters. These undue burdens serve as deterrents for voters and make it more difficult for election officials to efficiently register voters.

“New Hampshire Republicans have created a solution in to a problem they have no evidence exists. This is the latest in a long line of voter suppression efforts the Republican Party has engaged in around the country,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Unfortunately, the myth of voter fraud has been spread by Republican leaders at every level, from President Trump to Governor Sununu and within the New Hampshire legislature, as a false pretext for restricting access to voting. The First in the Nation primary state should work to make voting more accessible and efficient to eligible voters rather than driving down turnout and changing the rules to shape their desired outcome.”

SB 3 is the first voter suppression bill passed in the country since the election of President Trump.  In November, Governor Sununu falsely claimed that Massachusetts residents were being bused into New Hampshire to commit voter fraud. President Trump parroted the same lie just after his inauguration in January. New Hampshire has a proud tradition of strong voter turnout, with among the highest turnout percentages of any state in the country.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following statement after the lawsuit was filed:

“I am in full support of the NHDP lawsuit to block implementation of SB 3.  As we heard throughout the legislative process, enacting this bill will do nothing but confuse and intimidate new voters and complicate the work of election officials.”

“SB 3 requires anyone who registers to vote within 30 days of an election and on Election Day to read, and affirm to understand under penalty of fraud, an overly complex registration form outlining new requirements to ‘verify’ domicile.  The bureaucratic requirements established by SB 3 are so cumbersome that the unnecessary complexity appears deliberate.”

“Republicans in the legislature have erroneously claimed that this bill is needed to combat ‘voter fraud.’  Investigations that have been conducted following every New Hampshire election since 2006 show that voter fraud is practically nonexistent in our state.”

“It is embarrassing that the Republican Party continues to push President Trump’s discredited myth that New Hampshire’s elections have been wrought with fraud.  The election officials in our cities and towns deserve more credit for the hard work they do preserving the integrity of our elections.”

Concerned Citizens Confront Secretary of State Gardner Over Information Provided To Election Commission

Today a group of concerned citizens traveled to Concord to have a frank discussion with New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner.  The group had serious concerns about the information being provided to the President’s “Election Integrity Commission” and what the information would be used for.

The commission sent a letter to all 50 states last week requesting them to release personally identifying voter information, which it will then make public. Gardner serves on the commission and last week stated he will give the voter file to the commission. The NH ACLU filed a lawsuit for a temporary injunction on the matter earlier today to prevent him from doing so.

Today when asked Gardner provided some new details into what the commission is doing and that he does not want to make this information public.

First, Gardner explained that Kobach issued a retraction letter, though he has not seen it yet.

 

Gardner went on to say that he does not approve of the ‘Election Integrity Commission’ plan to publicly distribute personal voter data.

“I will make sure that that information is not gonna be put in the public domain,” said Gardner.

It is clear that Gardner shares the concerns of these fellow Granite Staters.

 

The big question is: What does Kris Kobach want to do with this information?  Does Kobach plan to give this information to President Trump?

One Granite Stater asked, “Can you guarantee the current administration won’t be using that database in any way, shape, or form?”

Gardner responded, “We’ll have these discussions when there’s the first meeting,” implying he still does not know what the information is being gathered for.

Mo Baxley of Laconia then asked, “And you won’t turn over the information until those conversations.”

Gardner stated, “I want to make sure that this is not in the public domain, and what the guarantees are for that, and I expect that that is the case, and before it gets turned over, I will make sure that I’m satisfied that, that, that’s the case.”

 


Special Thanks to Granite State Progress for capturing all of this exchange on video.

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Press releases online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.

Coalition And Activists Call On Governor Sununu To Veto Voter Suppression Bill SB3

Legislators Fail to Stand Up for Voting Rights, Local Control of Elections

CONCORD – The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights urges New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu to veto SB3 following its passage in the state House today. Passing narrowly on a 191-162 vote, SB3 will create an unfunded mandate for cities and towns and long lines for same-day registration.

Sununu’s veto would be a show of support for the constitutional right of all eligible residents in New Hampshire to participate in our elections.

SB3 severely tightens qualifications for voting in New Hampshire and potentially criminalizes legitimate same-day registration voters who know they cannot provide proof that they have performed a so-called “verifiable act,” such as buying a home or entering a formal lease — thereby effectively disenfranchising elderly, low income, and other vulnerable citizens, especially those who move in the months before an election and are unable to obtain sufficient proof. Under SB3, a voter who knowingly fails to provide evidence of domicile within 10 days faces a fine up to $5,000.

Hundreds of activists worked around the clock after a record number of 40 bills pertaining to voting rights, were filed this legislative session. Next Wave organizations such as Indivisible and Kent Street Coalition went to work and joined over 10 permanent advocacy organizations in an effort that powered a grassroots movement. The campaign included 22 nights of phone banks hosted across the state filling 274 volunteer shifts powered by 134 volunteers. Patch through phone calls generated 478 calls to state Senators and 855 calls to state House members. Meanwhile 246 postcards reached 22 Senators and 795 postcards reached 258 House members. Approximately 500 voters attended SB 3’s two marathon hearings, the House hearing becoming one of the longest voting rights hearings in recent history. Finally, volunteers called every Town Clerk, Moderator and Supervisors of the Checklist, over 600 across the state, to educate them on how SB 3 would unfairly impact towns and cities.

“Hundreds of ordinary people, not previously politically involved, worked to defeat SB3, as they saw the bill for what it was, a serious attempt to make voting in New Hampshire more difficult for many eligible voters,” said Linda Rhodes, Co-Chair of Indivisible New Hampshire. “It’s a sad day when the New Hampshire Legislature, instead of modernizing voting and making it more accessible and transparent, makes voting harder for citizens. Our volunteers will now turn our attention to making sure that our voter registration drives get into high gear, and you can be sure we will be trying to replace the New Hampshire Representatives who voted in favor of SB3.”

“SB 3 got many of us to the State House for the first time, said Louise Spencer, leader of Kent Street Coalition.” “Voting is the most fundamental of our democratic rights and we weren’t willing to see this right legislated away.  So we began showing up – attending hearings, talking to representatives in the hallways, testifying before committees. We are paying more attention than ever to what is happening here in Concord and we intend to hold our legislators accountable on voting rights.”

“The 2017 Legislative Session was a wakeup call for community members around the state,” said Paula Hodges, America Votes NH State Director. “SB3 is only the beginning of a resistance movement that is powering actions in living rooms and town halls across the Granite State. New Hampshire has a proud tradition of inclusive civic engagement and SB3 flies in the face of that tradition. We are sad to see that the New Hampshire Secretary of State did not listen to the concerns of our cities and towns and the election volunteers who do the real work on Election Day. We didn’t send politicians to Concord to mess with voting rights and they will be hearing from their constituents on this vote all Summer.”

“Senate Bill 3 accomplishes one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here,” said University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker. “Despite hours of powerful testimony from countless young voters who see this bill as an assault on their, and their peers, ability to vote and take part in the democratic process Republican leadership decided to ignore our voices. Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

No local election officials supported the bill after hours of testimony in both the House and Senate and were not engaged in the drafting of the legislation. SB3 will jam lines at the polls, as some voters will have to fill out pages of additional paperwork.

“The reforms proposed in SB3 are not reforms that local election officials were looking for.  I find it interesting that the majority party that is always touting local control, doesn’t trust locally elected and sworn election officials to carry out this sacred duty? Every election official from Town and City Clerks to Ballot Clerk take this duty very seriously,” said Jim Tetreault, Town Clerk/Tax Collector, Town of Winchester.

“People shouldn’t be fined for exercising their right to vote and doing nothing wrong other than not returning to a government agency with certain paperwork—paperwork that these legitimate voters may not have,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “SB 3 is also a violation of voters’ privacy by sending government agents to voters’ homes to check their documents. Requiring people to accept this government intrusion as a condition of voting will chill the right to vote.”

Aside from the Coalition, many others spoke out against the passage of SB3.

University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker:

“Senate Bill 3 will accomplish one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here. Despite hours of powerful testimony from countless young voters who see this bill as an assault on their ability to vote and take part in the democratic process, Republican leadership decided to ignore our voices. Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook):

“Today’s vote in support of SB 3 was a partisan sabotage of the election process that will do nothing but confuse and intimidate new voters.  This legislation adds over 350 words to the registration form that new voters will be required to read, and swear to understand, with the pressure of a growing line behind them at the polls on Election Day.”

“Requiring voters to read and comprehend an entire essay at the polls is unnecessary, intimidating, and only complicates work of election officials who will be tasked with helping voters understand the registration requirements.”

“No local election officials testified in support of this bill because the current process works well.  SB 3 is an illogical solution in search of a problem that will increase bureaucracy and expenses on local taxpayers.”

“This legislation was clearly designed to placate those who buy into President Trump’s discredited assertion that fraud cost him the popular vote in New Hampshire.  Leaders from both parties denounced those assertions, and as we know from the reports released following every single New Hampshire election, voter fraud is not an issue in our state.”

“Our election officials deserve support for the hard work they do preserving the integrity of our elections.  Advancing the myth of ‘voter fraud’ is not only disrespectful to those who enforce our laws, it also threatens the confidence in our First in the Nation Presidential Primary.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Today, Governor Sununu and President Trump’s voter fraud lies definitively shaped New Hampshire law. Our voting system is already secure with no credible voter fraud, and Republican attempts to say otherwise are based in conspiracy theory. Voter suppression laws like SB3 are designed to drive down turnout and slow down lines. These voting roadblocks change the outcomes of our elections. Anytime we disenfranchise a single eligible voter, we are damaging the integrity of our elections. Governor Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for propagating lies and legislation that undermine the integrity of our democratic process.”

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: NH Budget, Kindergarten Funding, And Voter Suppression

May 11, 2017  

The wheels turn slowly in Concord, as we grind towards the inevitable mid-June end of the 2017 legislative session The House did not meet in session this week due to a lack of bills coming to the floor for action, so everything will be condensed into sessions at the end of May. The House meets in session on May 18th to vote on an emergency supplemental appropriation to fund the Department of Health and Human Services until the end of the fiscal year. There will be no consideration of committee reports at this session.

Senate Action   The Senate did meet in session this week. The Senate’s proposed budget is yet to be unveiled. Committees did meet, however, and legislation continues to be refined and revenues continue to be sought for funding of various proposals. HB 356-FN, the bill with the attempted power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut, was voted on by the Senate and for now, the power grab has been held at bay. The final amended bill as passed by the Senate creates a committee to study education funding and the cost of an opportunity for an adequate education, the original intent of the bill, and “establishes a committee to study the organizational structure of the department of education and the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner of the department of education”.  The report of this committee is due out on November 1, 2017. The bill as amended also “authorizes the commissioner of the department of education, with the advice of the state board of education and after consultation with the deputy director and affected division directors, to transfer or assign functions, programs, or services within or between any division. Vigilance will be necessary to monitor the work of this committee and recommendations for the session in January.

Voter Suppression The House Election Law committee met earlier this week to once again consider SB 3, the voter suppression bill. A lengthy amendment was presented to the committee by Republican members, but while it redrafted many sections of the bill, most of the changes were technical and related to issues raised by groups such as the NH Municipal Association. One interesting proposal was to change who might come to your door to follow up and check on your domicile. Rather than election officials or local law enforcement, the proposed change had county officials doing this work, that is until it was pointed out that county sheriffs and their employees would likely be tasked with this duty. So, back to the drawing board. Given that there are virtually no reported instances of voter fraud in New Hampshire, the idea of having law enforcement confirm the domicile you listed when registering seems just a bit sinister. But to hear some House members and Senators speak, bringing law enforcement into the voter registration process and creating lengthy and confusing forms for new voters to fill out is all just normal, not an attempt to dissuade people from voting. According to the docket, the House Election Law Committee has this scheduled for Executive Session on May 16th at 10:20am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 308.

Funding for Full Day Kindergarten   In other news, the House Finance Committee held hearings this week on funding of full-day kindergarten across New Hampshire. No one can accuse New Hampshire of rushing into new and innovative ideas, since 76% of kindergarten students in 2012 were already in full-day sessions. Whether the Finance Committee will recommend financing this initiative or ask the House to reject it, it will be a difficult vote to defeat this initiative, given that it passed as a policy measure by nearly a 2 to 1 margin in the House just a couple of weeks ago. The public hearing was held last week and the Finance Committee (Division II) has scheduled an executive session for SB 191-FN, funding for full day kindergarten on Tuesday, May 16th at 11:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 209. The Finance Committee is also investigating the financing of SB 247, which will mandate early childhood testing for lead poisoning and require it as a prerequisite for public school enrollment. Everyone concedes that lead poisoning has very serious developmental consequences for young children, consequences that last a lifetime. Where the battle-lines are being drawn in the House is over the proposal to establish a fund to aid landlords in remediating for lead in properties they own. So there are costs associated with this initiative, costs that must then be counter-balanced by the public health benefits, especially in regards to young children who are not responsible for the environment in which they live. It is a public health issue, but also one with serious educational and social welfare ramifications, so it will prove interesting to see how this plays out at the end of the session.

New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony   On Friday, May 19th at 9:45 am in front of the Legislative Office Building at the memorial site, the annual service to honor our fallen NH law enforcement heroes will be held. If you can attend, please do make the effort. Next week is National Policer Officers Week to honor the work of law enforcement. We gather on May 19th to honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice keeping us all safe and every day we should appreciate and support the work of our law enforcement officers.

Finally, the House Committee on Legislative Administration held its public hearings on Republican Robert Fisher, accused of misogynistic commentary and running/contributing to a web platform with postings favorable to rape as well as claiming women lose value once past the age of thirty. Fisher defended himself in his hearing, admitting to some comments, denying others, but showing little in the way of remorse or contrition. As for Democrat Sherry Frost, the committee is investigating uncivil language used by her in a series of tweets a number of months ago, for which she already apologized. As noted last week, the political balancing act here is quite clear even if the allegations are not remotely equivalent, but this is life under the golden dome of the State House. The committee will issue its report and recommendations next week, and it will be interesting to see if the committee goes beyond a reprimand. That leaves it to the voters in Laconia (Fisher) and Dover (Frost). However, when the front page of NH’s leading newspaper features headlines on Fisher’s hearing and then the sentencing of former Republican representative Kyle Tasker on drug charges and using the Internet to solicit sex with a minor, well it just wasn’t a good day. Of course, if Tasker were proposing marriage to the 14-year old, that would be fine—remember, the House refused to raise the age for marriage for girls from 13 to 18 years old. It has been that kind of year. 

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Below is a PDF copy of the Bulletin you can print and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN May 11, 2017

AFT NH Legislative Bulletin 4-17-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, and Edelblut’s Power Grab

In the aftermath of the House’s stunning failure to pass a budget (due to Republican intra-party feuding), the Senate becomes the focal point of attention, as it works to develop a budget proposal. Using Governor Sununu’s budget proposal as a starting point, the Senate will craft a budget and attach it as an amendment to a House bill. That amended bill will then be sent back to the House, which will of course reject the bill, forcing a committee of conference to hammer out the final details of the State’s 2017-18 biennial budget. So, much remains to be done, but much of it will occur behind the scenes, in negotiations between the Senate, the Governor, and the House. Stay tuned-this will not be finished until June 2017.

Voter Suppression Meanwhile, the legislative wheels continue to turn, though many House committees are now finishing up their work for the year, having held hearings on Senate bills and sent them on to the House floor for a vote. Two bills still awaiting final committee action are SB 3 (to restrict and limit voting rights in NH) and SB 193 (the voucher bill). The House Election Law committee held its hearing on SB 3 this past week, but has yet to vote on a recommendation for the House. In essence, this is a voter suppression bill, aimed at limiting voting by groups such as college students on the specious grounds of voter fraud in prior elections. You know, the mythical busloads of people coming over the border from Massachusetts to vote in NH. I live in a border town where my town moderator has labeled these tales as pure fiction. Nor is he alone—other town moderators and even the NH Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, have denied the occurrence of identifiable voter fraud. But in an age of “fake news,” we now are on the verge of making policy based not on proven facts, but on rumor, innuendo, and outright falsehoods.

SB 193-School Vouchers The other bill which bears close observation is SB 193, the education voucher bill. After being slammed in front of the House Education Committee by a parade of witnesses, including the head of the Finance Committee and a representative from the Attorney General’s office, the sponsors of the bill have retreated and are working feverishly to draw up an amendment to modify or even replace the entire bill. We will likely see the text of this amendment this coming Wednesday, when the House Education Committee holds a full committee work session on the bill. It is expected that sponsors will seek to limit the financial impact of the bill by capping the number of students who can be withdrawn from public schools and thereby obtain vouchers (formally known as education savings accounts funded by monies provided by the State and withdrawn from supporting public schools). Whatever the formula, the goal is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the edge of the tent,” meaning to start the program and then expand upon it in years to come. Many of the same Republican members of the House who voted to torpedo the House budget proposal are now working assiduously to try to render SB 193 palatable, although in any form it will reduce public funding of public schools and thereby raise local property taxes. This bill must be halted! Here is the AFT-NH HANDOUT VS. SB 193 Please take action to contact your representative and tell them NO to SB 193.

Edelblut Power Grab One final note. You make recall that in January we opposed the confirmation of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education, based on his complete lack of experience in public education. At his confirmation hearing, Edelblut repeatedly claimed he would be an administrator, not a policy-maker, merely carrying out the wishes of the legislature and the State Board of Education. Well, we now see his true colors emerging, for at Edelblut’s urging, an AMENDMENT has been offered in the Senate which would give Edelblut power to completely redraw the Department of Education, move personnel around as he wishes, and move monies between budgets and budget lines as he sees fit. This is a non-germane amendment offered to HB 356. In other words, a huge power boost for the “administrator” and a means by which he can easily shape educational policy and practice. Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who grilled Edelblut during his confirmation hearing, characterizes this as “an unprecedented, naked power grab by the commissioner.” Edelblut, known as a champion of home-schooling, charter schools, vouchers, and even creationism, is clearly seeking to expand his power and do so in a way (via legislative amendment) where there will likely be no public hearing or public input. We will be following this unfolding drama very closely.

Now is the time to remain focused as this is the time when we may see breaking news as all of the behind the scenes work is underway. Please be sure to like us on Facebook at AFT New Hampshire or follow us on Twitter @AFTNewHampshire to receive the latest news.

Please remember your actions do matter. One more letter and phone call could just make the difference. Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President


ACTIONS NEEDED

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already done so, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions:

  1. The House Education Committee has scheduled the committee vote for Tuesday, April 25th at 9:30am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. As noted above, it appears an amendment will be offered at a work session of the committee this Wednesday. No version of education savings accounts or vouchers should see the light of day here in NH. We still have plenty of time to reach out to committee members before they vote.

Please mail the full House Education Committee directly: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us.

For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#.

AND 

  1. Regardless of what happens in the Committee, SB 193 will be voted on by the full House after the committee vote. So let’s get ahead of this and contact your State Representative(s) by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

Defeat SB 193       

SB 3 Is Only About One Thing: Voter Suppression

Voter intimidation leads voter suppression and that leads to people losing their voice in our democracy.

The New Hampshire House is now considering a bill, SB 3, that was forced through the Senate, straight down party lines, would make it harder for people to vote.

For years the Republican Party has been pushing to “strengthen” our voting laws. By “strengthening” I mean they are trying to block typically Democratic voters from being able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.

Research shows that in higher turnout elections Democrats do better. So Republicans will do anything to keep the voter turn out small in an effort to gain a political advantage.

First they passed the restrictive Voter ID law requiring every voter have a valid New Hampshire ID in order to vote.

Now they are working to change the “domicile” language to protect New Hampshire elections from they myth of voter fraud.

Much of this voter fraud debate has stemmed from the false accusations by Donald Trump, and echoed by Governor Chris Sununu, that “busloads” of voters are being brought into New Hampshire from Massachusetts to sway our elections. Trump, Sununu, and the entire NH Republican Party are using the sheer number of same-day voter registrations as the basis for their claim of voter fraud.

SB 3 requires new voters to show proof of their “domicile” by providing supporting documentation like a utility bill with their name and address on it.

This alone is difficult for college students who live in the dormitories, as their mailbox is not specific to where they reside on campus.

Does this minor detail enough to confuse a college student about their eligibility to vote? Is this enough to keep them from voting entirely?

Proponents of the bill say that all you need to do is sign the form and then return to the town hall with proper documentation within 10 days. If you fail to do this, you could be subject to fines or possible jail time. The town may even send someone to you home to verify your address. At one point the Senate wanted to send armed police officers to your house if you filed a domicile affidavit.

So why are so many people against this bill?

For starters, the GOP are attempting to solve a problem that does not exist. They are spreading wild accusations that out of staters coming to NH on Election Day to vote. Over the last decade there has only been 2 cases of voter fraud out of thousands and thousands of ballots cast.

They are trying to suppress the vote through intimidation and threat of jail time for those who register to vote on Election Day. Our domicile laws are pretty straight forward now: If you are domiciled in New Hampshire on Election Day you can vote in local elections. This means that students at UNH can claim NH as their domicile and vote in NH elections.

Republicans continue to say that they one want people to vote who “have a stake in the community.”   Are Republicans trying to say that a college student who lives in NH, attends school in NH, and works in NH for more than nine months of the year, does not have a stake in the community?

Both parties should be working on expanding access to the polls not restricting it. We should make it easier for people to register to vote by tying voter registrations to driver’s licenses and allowing people to register to vote online.   This alone could reduces long lines at polling places and is much easier to track that paper copies.

But because Republicans really only want to rig the system for their own gain, they refuse to make online registration available.

Intimidating voters and attempting to suppress the vote is the foundation of SB 3 and that is why our elected representatives must reject this harmful piece of legislation.

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