By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 27, 2011, I vetoed SB 129.
The right to vote is a fundamental right that is guaranteed to all citizens of this State under the United States and New Hampshire Constitutions. An eligible voter who goes to the polls to vote on Election Day should be able to have his or her vote count on Election Day. SB 129 creates a real risk that New Hampshire voters will be denied their right to vote.
Voter turnout in New Hampshire is among the highest in the nation, election after election. There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire. We already have strong elections laws that are effective in regulating our elections.
SB 129 requires a voter to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot in any municipal, state or federal election in New Hampshire. The photo identification must be one that is issued by the United States government or the State of New Hampshire, or a driver's license from another state. Without that type of photo identification, the voter can only cast a "provisional" ballot, requiring the voter to return to their city or town clerk's office no later than 2 ½ days after the election with a valid photo ID, a waiver from the Secretary of State, or an affidavit of religious exemption.
Seniors, students, those who are disabled or do not drive, and those who do not already have a state-issued or federal-issued photo ID, may not be able to arrange to obtain a valid photo ID within the tight 2 ½ day timeframe. Many town offices are closed or have only limited hours on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when those voters who received a provisional ballot would be expected to return to produce a photo ID and have their vote counted. Voters in areas of the state where DMV offices have been consolidated will also be disadvantaged. Traveling to Concord or Manchester is not an option for everyone. These circumstances will present real hardships, especially for our seniors and disabled voters.
The New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association, AARP, the League of Women Voters, and the Secretary of State have all opposed provisions of this bill. The bill's provisions for the length of time to produce a valid photo ID after an election and the types of photo IDs allowed are among the most restrictive voter identification provisions in the nation despite any evidence that current law is insufficient protection against voter fraud.
If SB 129 were to take effect, New Hampshire would have a different and more lenient standard to register to vote than to cast a vote. Under current law, a person registering to vote prior to Election Day can execute an affidavit and does not need to produce a photo ID. When a voter chooses to use a photo ID to register, he or she may use any photo ID deemed to be legitimate by the local official, not just a State of New Hampshire or US Government issued ID.
But SB 129 goes even further and actually discriminates between state and federal workers on one hand and municipal and private employees on the other. Under SB 129, a State Trooper can use his or her state photo ID to vote, but a municipal police officer cannot use his or her municipal issued photo ID. State employees can use their agency-issued photo ID's to vote, but employees at private companies may not use their company-issued photo IDs. SB 129 would also allow a person to use a Massachusetts or Maine driver's license as a valid photo ID to vote, even though a municipal photo ID issued by Raymond or Londonderry would not be a valid photo ID. Creating a two-tiered system of photo IDs for registering and voting makes no sense. It will only cause confusion and frustration at the polls that is bound to result in preventing some voters from casting their vote on Election Day.
There is also no provision made in SB 129 to guarantee the confidentiality of those that cast a provisional ballot. Unlike current election law, which protects from public disclosure the names of those persons who request and cast an absentee ballot during the election process, there is no comparable provision guaranteeing confidentiality to those who are issued and cast a provisional ballot. Ballot secrecy is fundamental to our voting system, and SB 129 fails to preserve ballot secrecy for all voters.
The provisional ballot provision of SB 129 may also impact the State's responsibility to conclude its state primary elections in a timeframe that will allow the general election ballots to be prepared and sent to military and other overseas voters in compliance with federal law. Many of the states that have adopted the use of provisional ballots with photo ID have primaries in the spring or early summer months, much earlier than New Hampshire's state primary. There is also a risk that challenges to election results over the validity of provisional ballots will impact the Secretary of State's ability to meet federal requirements for supplying general election ballots to oversees voters.
For all these reasons, I am vetoing SB 129.