A showdown over Residency and Voting Rights is expected to begin when the New Hampshire Senate reconvenes in January 2018.
The State Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee Approved an Amendment to a retained Bill, which passed the House of Representatives in the last Session, and would tighten the Legal Definitions of “Resident, Inhabitant, and Residence or Residency.”
The move is expected to pit Senate Democrats who consider the Bill an Infringement on Voting Rights against Republicans who claim it Eliminates the Legal gray area surrounding Domiciled Citizens.
When the Senate reconvenes it is expected to take up HB 372, which would Eliminate the Language, “for the indefinite future,” in the Law. The Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee passed an Amendment 3-2 along Party Lines, which further tightens the Residency requirement by mainly altering RSA-21:6-a to read, “This place of abode or domicile must be that place the person has, through all of his or her actions, demonstrated a current intent to designate as his or her principal place of physical presence to the exclusion of all others.”
“This bill attempts to readdress what each term, inhabitant, resident and domicile means separately. The last time I asked there are 146 instances where each term is used separately in laws and they are used very interchangeably,” said State Sen. Andy Sanborn (R-9th District), a Member of the Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee. “The Legislature itself has made this issue more complicated, so we’re attempting to rein it back in to an understandable presence.”
RSA-21:6-a, currently defining Residence reads, “Residence or residency shall mean a person’s place of abode or domicile. The place of abode or domicile is that designated by a person as his or her principal place of physical presence for the indefinite future to the exclusion of all others. Such residence or residency shall not be interrupted or lost by a temporary absence from it, if there is an intent to return to such residence or residency as the principal place of physical presence.”
Civil Rights Organizations and Voting Rights Organizations contend the proposed Bill and Republican Amendment is an attempt to curtail Voting Rights because it would institute extra hurdles for people like College Students and Military Members to navigate in order to Vote in New Hampshire. “HB 372 changes the ‘residency’ standard to omit the phrase ‘for the indefinite future’ and attempts to have this standard become the criteria to vote,” said Gilles Bissonnette, America Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire Legal Director. “In so doing, this bill specifically targets persons who live in New Hampshire, but who may know they will be leaving sometime in the future – including hospital residents, military personnel or professors who will be leaving New Hampshire in three years, or college students who know they will leave after graduation. This bill is very concerning, as it acts as a post-election poll tax where, if such a person decides to exercise her constitutional right to vote, that person would now have 60 days to pay the state various motor vehicle fees.”
America Votes New Hampshire State Director Liz Wester said Legislators were to blame for not stepping up to Modernize the Voting Process and instead were aiming to Institute Policies that may have a chilling effect on Voter Participation. “It is disappointing to once again see the Legislature focus on limiting participation in our election process rather than finding ways to modernize our elections,” Wester said. “We should be focusing on ways to ensure every eligible voter participates in our elections instead of continuing the trend of politicians trying to pick their voters.”
Sanborn said he was disappointed Democrats and others are shifting the Conversation about Voting Rights. “This does not change who can vote and is just a clarification of what the statute is,” Sanborn said. “In virtually every other state, they have clear definitions on who is transitory. If you’re visiting temporarily, I want you to vote but you should vote in your home state.”
Many States are making this request, If you are not planning to be a long term Resident then Vote Absentee in your Home State.
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-1st District), said there are numerous Individual circumstances where New Hampshire Citizens could be frozen out of Voting if this Bill passes, such as a Couple getting Divorced, One Spouse being kicked out of the House and no longer living at the Address they were previously Registered to Vote, someone who is in the process of Buying a House when an Election is coming up. or Out-of-State College Students who are spending a Majority of the Year in the State. “As a civics teacher, taxpayers paid me to encourage people to vote,” said Woodburn, who is also a Member of the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee. “There’s always circumstances that don’t fit into these cookie-cutter scenarios Republicans are trying to peg everyone into. This is part of a nationalized strategy Republicans are using to discourage and disenfranchise voters who do not support them.
“If the goal is full participation, we can use basic technology to ensure everyone is voting in only one place using our Help America Vote Act funds, but every time we ask Republicans what we can do to simply the process, they don’t have an answer because they don’t want everyone to vote.”
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker