Sununu vetoes Democratic-backed voting bills

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 8/9/19 2:00am


Gov. Sununu vetoed two bills passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature on the issue of voting registration.

Source: Can Stock Photo

Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed House Bills 105 and 106, two bills that would repeal recently-passed voter registration restrictions in New Hampshire. Both chambers of the Democratic-controlled state legislature are expected to meet in September to attempt to override the governor’s veto. Since the bills passed by party-line votes, it is unlikely that supporters will be able to garner enough votes to override the vetoes.

The two bills, if passed, would have effectively overturned Senate Bill 3 and HB 1264, two laws passed in recent years that supporters said would protect the integrity of state elections and opponents claim were attempts to suppress the vote of some New Hampshire residents, especially college students. 

SB 3, passed in 2017, requires that people who register to vote in New Hampshire provide proof of domicile within 30 days of an election. HB 1264, which passed the next year, changed the definition of a “resident” and requires that out-of-state students obtain state driver’s licenses or in-state car registrations in order to vote — provisions that Democrats argue would severely limit the ability of college students whose residences are out-of-state to vote in New Hampshire. 

Both SB 3 and HB 1264 were passed by the then-Republican controlled legislature and signed into law by Sununu. After Democrats gained the majority in both houses following the 2018 midterm elections, they passed HB 105 and 106 in an effort to repeal SB 3 and HB 1264. 

In Sununu’s veto message regarding HB 106, he wrote that the bill “would take us back to the days of unequal treatment of voters.” For HB 105, he said that the bill would repeal SB 3’s “improvements to our election process.” 

In a letter addressed to Sununu on July 23, College President Phil Hanlon urged Sununu to support HB 105 and 106. 

“The multiple hurdles to voting imposed by recent legislation would impose unreasonable, discriminatory burdens to student voters and increase confusion and fear of penalties,” Hanlon wrote.

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Casey v. Gardner on behalf of lead plaintiffs  Caroline Casey ’21 and Maggie Flaherty ’21, who allege that the restrictions that HB 1264 places on out-of-state voters are unconstitutional. The lawsuit is ongoing.

SB 3 is also being challenged in court. In 2017, the League of Women Voters, the New Hampshire Democratic Party and individual voters filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire attorney general and secretary of state claiming that SB 3’s restrictions on voting were unconstitutional. The trial for the lawsuit is scheduled for December.