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New Hampshire's highest court strikes down voter registration law

Justices wrote that ID requirement "imposes unreasonable burdens on the right to vote."

July 6, 2021 5:30pm

Updated: July 6, 2021 8:17pm

New Hampshire's Supreme Court has struck down a four-year old law requiring voters to show additional proof of identity if they register shortly before an election.

The high court's unanimous 4-0 ruling, which was issued Friday, upholds a lower court's decision that the law approved by the Legislature in 2017 was unconstitutional.

In the ruling, the justices wrote that they agreed with the lower court rulings that the law "imposes unreasonable burdens on the right to vote" and that lawyers for the state failed to demonstrate that the law was related to an "important governmental objective."

The law required voters to show additional proof of identification if they registered within 30 days of a federal, state or local election.

Democrats and the New Hampshire League of Women Voters sued over the law, which they alleged was part of an effort to suppress votes by the Legislature's GOP majority.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley praised the court's ruling, calling it "a victory for voting rights."

"We're pleased that the New Hampshire Supreme Court found that SB 3 was an unconstitutional, overly burdensome, and discriminatory bill meant to discourage eligible New Hampshire voters from casting their ballots," Buckley said.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed the law, issued a statement lamenting the high court's decision.

“It’s disappointing that these commonsense reforms were not supported by our Supreme Court, but we have to respect their decision and I encourage the Legislature to take the court’s opinion into account and continue working to make commonsense reforms to ensure the integrity of New Hampshire’s elections," he said.

Democrats passed a law repealing the changes in 2019, when they had control of the Legislature, but Sununu vetoed it.

Shortly after, Democrats and voting rights groups filed a lawsuit and a lower court ruled in their favor. The decision by the high court upholds that previous ruling.

Republicans argued that the requirement to provide additional information to register to vote was needed to prevent voter fraud in elections.

House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, said the Supreme Court ruling gives the GOP-controlled Legislature a "renewed sense of purpose as we work together to ensure New Hampshire’s elections remain fair with open transparency."

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