CONCORD – Two opposing bills to change postal voting – one to simplify and the other to require photo identification – were tabled before a state Senate committee on Monday.
Donna Soucy, Chairwoman of the Senate Minority in D-Manchester, said her Absence-Defying Act (SB 47) is based on a law that allows any voter to cast a vote in 2020 if they have concerns about COVID-19 in the elections to get.
“I think we need to move forward with a process that allows anyone to vote by post,” Soucy told the Senate’s electoral law and local affairs committee. “In the past I have voted against an unapologetic absentee ballot. This is a process that should be progressed. “
A record 814,000 ballots cast in November. More than 235,000 were postal ballot papers, three times as high as in previous elections.
However, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said his office has concerns about opening postal votes to the extent that Soucy is proposing.
“To allow for absent-minded absentee voting, there is an option to manage postal voting. We have heard reports of voter harvests in other states,” Scanlan said. “Our system gives responsibility to the voter.”
Against the NH constitution?
The bill would also go against Part 1, Article 11 of the state constitution, which allows postal voting only for disabled voters or for those out of town on election day, Scanlan said.
Another portion of Soucy’s bill, which received widespread support, would allow city and city election officials to pre-process postal ballot papers during the four days leading up to the vote.
Again, this was only allowed for the 2020 election as it was feared that the virus would slow down the number of ballots.
Derry City presenter Tina Guilford said local poll workers found six postal ballot papers incorrectly completed in November.
Voters were contacted and came to city offices to make corrections so their votes could be counted, she said.
Cordell Johnston of the New Hampshire Municipal Association urged lawmakers to uphold the provision even if they cannot support an apology-free vote.
“It was overwhelmingly popular with election officials. This saved so much time in the elections. I don’t think there is any downside to pre-processing ballots, ”said Johnson.
Governor Chris Sununu and Republican lawmakers have consistently opposed a no-excuse absentee vote.
Last week, Sununu signed an executive order that allows city officials to preprocess ballot papers for local elections. The legislature has pending a bill (SB 2) that would achieve the same result.
Senate Committee on Ways and Means chairman Robert Giuda, R-Warren, said those seeking a postal vote will be required to provide a copy of their driver’s license or other photo ID.
“I don’t think this is an unnecessary burden,” said Giuda of his draft law (SB 54), which is supported by four other chairmen of the committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Michael Skibbie, political director of the Disabilities Rights Center, said Giuda’s bill could violate federal law on Americans with disabilities and discriminate against the disabled.
“There is no justification for treating these voters differently. There is no evidence that postal voting due to disability resulted in any fraud in any way, ”Skibbie said.
At the end of the hearing, Giuda said he would agree to limit the size of his bill only to those submitting requests for postal voting from anywhere other than a permanent address.
“The intention is not to withdraw the license, but to review those who are able to vote in absentia,” said Giuda.