N.H. governor vetoes bill requiring photo ID to cast ballot

By Norma Love
Associated Press / June 28, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — Governor John Lynch vetoed a bill yesterday that requires voters to show photo identification to vote in New Hampshire.

“An eligible voter who goes to the polls to vote on Election Day should be able to have his or her vote count on Election Day,’’ Lynch said. The bill “creates a real risk that New Hampshire voters will be denied their right to vote.’’

Lynch pointed out that voter turnout in New Hampshire is among the highest in the country. The Democratic governor discounted Republican arguments that requiring a photo ID would reduce fraud.

“We already have strong election laws that are effective in regulating our elections,’’ he wrote.

He vetoed a similar bill in 2006, which was sustained. Though the GOP has supermajority in House and Senate, the bill did not pass by the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate to assure supporters can override the veto. An override vote is not expected until fall.

Under the bill, people without acceptable identification could cast provisional ballots. For the vote to be counted, they would have to return by noon on the Friday after the Tuesday election with a government-issued photo identification.

Voters also could get a waiver from the photo identification requirement from the secretary of state or receive a voucher to cover the cost of getting photo identification from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. They also could sign an affidavit claiming a religious exemption to having their photo taken.

Lynch said those provisions would present hurdles to senior citizens, students, people who are disabled or do not drive, and anyone who does not already have a state-issued or federally issued photo ID. He said they may not be able to obtain one in the time allowed by the bill.

Lynch noted that the New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association, AARP, the League of Women Voters, and the secretary of state opposed parts of the bill.

He said if the bill became law, New Hampshire would have a different and more lenient standard to register to vote than to cast a ballot.

Lynch also pointed out there is no provision guaranteeing confidentiality for those casting a provisional ballot and the delay in counting provisional ballots would jeopardize the state’s ability to conclude its September primary election with enough time to prepare and send general election ballots to the military and other overseas voters in compliance with federal law.

Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, criticized Lynch for vetoing what he called a common-sense bill. He said Lynch was pandering to extremists in his party.

House Speaker William O’Brien said it was disappointing that “Lynch has chosen against making sure our elections are as pure as possible and free of corruption.’’