Notes from Concord

Comments about New Hampshire Senate Bill 3

By David B. Karrick, Jr.

Earlier this week, Hillsborough County New Hampshire Judge Charles Temple finally introduced some sanity to a truly insane disruption of our state’s voting system by ruling that the penalties outlined in Senate Bill 3 “act as a very serious deterrent on the right to vote, and if there is indeed a ‘compelling’ need for them, the Court has yet to see it.”

And while early reports from Laconia show that the first voting to take place since Senate Bill 3 became law went off without a hitch (kudos to Laconia City Clerk Mary Reynolds who posted information about the new law on the town’s Website (something New Hampshire’s Secretary of State has yet to do), an election involving less than 3,000 voters is certainly not a true test of the mayhem this law could inflict on our state voting system.

Picture the next presidential election. Granite Staters like to vote – typical turnout during a presidential year is upwards of 70 percent of our 1 million plus residents. In 2020, we can expect long lines at polling places while voters and diligent poll workers attempt to untangle the confusing and intimidating requirements this law puts into place. Those who can’t afford to wait around all day will turn around and go home in frustration. Even worse will be those too confused or intimidated to come out and vote in the first place – disproportionately young, low-income, minority voters.

Make no mistake about it. This is what voter suppression looks like.

Senate Bill 3 was jammed through by Republicans in our state legislature intent on taking us backward, to a time when voting was suppressed, by law, for large swaths of our populace. It was signed into law by a governor who has parroted that tired and thoroughly-debunked claim that voter fraud runs rampant in our state, with Democratic voters bussed into New Hampshire from Massachusetts.

The truth is that Senate Bill 3 mandates unnecessary solutions to a non-existent problem.

As a longtime New Hampshire resident and a former representative in the state legislature, I am proud of our first-in-the-nation tradition when it comes to voting. I am proud that our voter turnout routinely ranks among the highest. I am proud that at election time, all eyes turn northward to our White Mountains.

We have a responsibility to be a model for the rest of the nation, and the world, for inclusive voting practices that extend this constitutional right to every citizen. I, for one, will keep fighting voter suppression laws, such as Senate Bill 3, that seek to dismantle an essential building block of our democracy. The first step in that fight is calling this law what it is: an attempt to disenfranchise voters.