Judge blocks New Hampshire law requiring new voters show proof of residency

New Hampshire’s SB3, which Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law in 2017, was blocked by a state Superior Court judge on Oct. 22.

(by Sharon Bernstein, Reuters) – A New Hampshire judge on Monday put on hold a law requiring some voters to present proof of residency when they register, saying it would lengthen lines at polling places and make it difficult for students, disabled voters and others to cast ballots.

The temporary injunction against the Republican-backed law comes two weeks before U.S. Congressional elections that will determine whether opposition Democrats or U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republicans retain full control of the federal government’s legislative branch.

The measure, which passed largely along party lines and went into effect last year, required those seeking to register within 30 days of an election to present documents proving that they live in the area where they intend to vote. Without such proof, they must agree to either send it in within 10 days or the state will seek to verify their domicile. [If the person doesn’t register to vote until election day, he/she must at that time show proof of address or sign an affidavit agreeing to deliver or mail proof of residence to the town or city clerk within 10 days following the election (or 30 days in some areas) OR say that they do not have any proof of residence but understand that town officials will take steps to confirm that he/she lives where they claim. After signing the affidavit, the person can then vote.]

The law does not require proof of address when voting.

“Where the law threatens to disenfranchise an individual’s right to vote, the only viable remedy is to enjoin its enforcement,” Presiding Justice Kenneth C. Brown wrote in his decision for the Hillsborough Superior Court Northern District in Manchester.

In addition to discussing the lawsuit, the judge added that the registration form is too complicated for many people to understand.

[The lawsuit to block the law from taking effect was filed last year by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and individual voters who claim the new registration requirements are onerous and an unnecessary obstacle to exercising their constitutional rights.]  The groups said it would disenfranchise numerous groups including students, the disabled and homeless voters. The measure will be put on hold while the merits of the case are decided.

New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat, welcomed the ruling.

“This law undermines our state’s reputation for holding free and fair elections, and it hurts our democracy,” she said in a statement.

New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards said through a spokeswoman on Monday that the state was reviewing the court order and would soon communicate its next steps. She did not say whether that would include appealing the injunction.

From Reuters .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Thomson Reuters.


1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)

2. a) What does the law require people registering to vote to do?
b) If the person does not have the proof, what can they do?

3. What doesn’t the law require a person to do?

4. For what reasons did the judge make his ruling? What did he write in his decision?

5. Republicans support the law; Democrats oppose it. What did Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter say about the ruling?

6. a) Define disenfranchise.
b) Do you agree with the judge and Democrats that this law will disenfranchise voters? Explain your answer.

7. The New Hampshire law requires people to show their proof of residency one time. It does not require people voting on election day to show identification. Is this an unreasonable law? Explain your answer.

A) In addition to the proof of residency requirement, what did the judge say about the voter registration form in general (that had nothing to do with the lawsuit)?
B) Read the New Hampshire voter application form. Do you agree with judge? (Voter Reg. Card-2017NEW-Form B for web.pdf
C) If he feels the form is too complicated to understand, what can he as a New Hampshire resident do solve the problem he sees?


Read Registering to Vote in New Hampshire from the state website, or go to the Frequently Asked Questions page.

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