New Hampshire Strengthens Election Integrity and Voter Participation in 2020
New Hampshire does not offer early voting and had previously restricted vote by mail, so the state has traditionally had strong in-person turnout on Election Day. But since 2020, the state has expanded eligibility for vote by mail by allowing COVID-19 to be a reason not to vote in person. As a result, 32% percent of votes were cast by mail in 2020, compared to 10% in 2016.
Thanks to the expanded options, New Hampshire voter turnout increased by 3% between 2016 and 2020 (or about 40,000 new voters), proudly achieving the 3rd highest voter turnout in the country. Because New Hampshire is known for being “the nation’s swingiest state,” these percentage points can have big impacts on election outcomes.
Some New Hampshirites do not see increased voter participation as beneficial to their political agenda and are taking steps to undermine equal access to voting–and by extension election integrity as a whole–going after young people’s votes in particular.
Young People’s Freedom to Vote is Under Attack in 2022
New Hampshire has a higher percentage of college students than any other state. Like most college students, they face a difficult time registering to vote since their addresses change more frequently than the rest of the population.
Historically, New Hampshire has empowered them with the freedom to vote by providing the option of a voter affidavit, which allows them to attest to their identity, citizenship, or age when voting in person if they have forgotten any important documents. This enables them as American citizens to securely cast their vote. If voters lie on the affidavit, they may face a $5,000 penalty and prison time.
According to Heritage Foundation, the one college student to try voter fraud in recent memory was promptly caught by the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. He was sentenced to serve six months in a state correctional facility, but that sentence was suspended on the condition that he pay a $2,000 fine and complete 200 hours of community service. He was also stripped of his right to vote in New Hampshire.
Clearly, election security is tight in New Hampshire and the systems in place are working. But new legislation would attack young people in New Hampshire by eliminating the affidavit option that has obviously worked to make voting accessible and fair in New Hampshire. The only reason to make these changes is expedite political agendas.
List of Bad Bills
HB 1643 would impose a $10 per month fine on voters who register using an out-of-state driver’s license for every month they do not obtain a NH driver’s license. This bill is targeted at college students. As of March 2022, this bill has been sent back to the Committee for further analysis before legislators vote on it.
SB 418 requires voters who same-day register on Election Day, but lack adequate documentation, to mail those documents to the Secretary of State within 10 days of the election or their votes will be invalidated. It can take up to 60 business days to receive a state ID, making it impossible for people to meet the deadline. This will hurt people who don’t have these documents, especially homeless veterans. This bill became law in June 2022.
Attempts to Scare Voters Away from the Polls
While legislation is being proposed to limit the vote, others are in the streets attempting to discourage voter participation.
The “New Hampshire Voter Integrity Group” has been knocking on doors throughout the state to allegedly verify voter information. The group has asked for voters’ names, polling locations, method of past voting, and more. The Department of Justice has warned the group that they could be in violation of federal voter intimidation laws if they persist.
Undermining Election Integrity by Distracting with Fake Claims of Voter Fraud
While New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Scanlan, has defended the integrity of the state’s election procedures, a number of Republican legislators continue to challenge the 2020 election results.
Republican Rep. Tim Baxter has sponsored a bill that would require a statewide audit of the 2020 election; Baxter has said that the majority of the state believes either the 2016 or 2020 elections were stolen, despite no evidence of fraud. Baxter said he has filed a Legislative Service Request – known at the State House as an LSR – for the bill to be drafted and introduced in the 2022 session that would mandate a statewide audit.