CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire House on Thursday approved a bill that would require voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election to provide proof that they intend to stay.
The measure cleared the House 191-162 despite the objections of Democrats who insisted it would disenfranchise voters and some Republicans who said it wouldn’t accomplish anything. It was a slightly modified version of a bill that passed the Senate in March.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump alleged widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, and while there has been no evidence to support that, Republicans contended existing state laws create the potential for fraud.
Under current law “voters are able to cast their ballots without proving that they live here. That is unacceptable,” said Rep. Steve Negron, a Republican from Nashua.
“We are ensuring the integrity of the vote. We’re not trying to prevent it, we’re trying to protect it,” he said.
Under the bill, voters who can’t provide proof they intend to remain in New Hampshire, such as a driver’s license or lease, would still be allowed to vote. However, if they don’t follow up with elections officials within 10 to 30 days, authorities could go their homes to investigate. In cases where officials couldn’t verify someone’s address, the voter would be removed from the voter rolls for future elections.
Republican Rep. Bart Fromuth agreed that election law reform is desperately needed, but he said the bill before the House would not accomplish it.
“The 2016 campaign was about bold vision, new direction and real change, yet 2017 seems to be filled with terms like small steps and incrementalism,” he said. “To that, I say ‘No thank you.’ I didn’t sign up for that.”
Democrats also argued the lengthy registration form the bill requires would confuse voters. They said some people whose names are not on leases or mortgages, such as homeless voters or domestic violence victims, would have to get written statements verifying their addresses.
“No one should be asked to beg their abuser for permission to vote,” said Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough.
Thursday was the deadline for the House to act on Senate bills, and vice versa. Among other bills, the House approved a plan to use the Keno lottery game to fund full-day kindergarten, one of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s top initiatives. Nearly 75 percent of New Hampshire communities already offer full-day kindergarten, but the state only pays half the standard per-student amount for those pupils.
That bill now goes back to the Senate, along with another that would allow murder charges to be brought against those who cause the death of a fetus. Nearly 40 other states already have fetal homicide laws. The bill passed by the House on Thursday would allow fetuses that have reached 20 weeks after conception to be considered victims of murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide or assisted suicide.
The House also voted to remove criminal penalties for possessing up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana. That bill now goes Sununu, who plans to sign it.