The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire has asked a court to decide whether the secretary of state is violating a court order by sending letters to some voters that the ACLU says suggests they must get a state driver's license to prove they live in the state.
In a motion filed Monday in Strafford County Superior Court and announced Tuesday, the ACLU asked a judge to issue an emergency order requiring Secretary of State William Gardner to obey a court's ruling from last year that prohibited the letters from being mailed.
The letters from Gardner inform voters that because they voted by domicile affidavit, they must be informed that a driver must get a license within 60 days of becoming a resident of the state. People who vote by affidavit are saying they live in New Hampshire and are entitled to vote in the state but don't have the identification to prove it. The letter informs voters that the driver's license language is being challenged in court.
"It is likely that the Secretary of State's Office has sent thousands of such letters since July 24, 2014, in violation of the Superior Court's order," the ACLU said in its motion.
Gardner said the motion is without merit because the original judge's order was about voter registration forms and these letters are being sent to people who already voted.
"The bottom line is, it's two different laws," Gardner said. "I can't fathom what they're trying to do. It's ridiculous. This has nothing to do with the case."
The difference between "domicile" and "resident" is what the ACLU questions.
A voter who is "domiciled" in the state could include college students, military personnel or medical residents who may leave the state in the future. The ACLU said the letters from the secretary of state could keep that population from voting. "Resident" indicates an intention to stay in New Hampshire for "the indefinite future."
In July, Strafford County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker ruled the language on voter registration forms may discourage people from voting if they think they have to change their driver's license and car registration, resulting in "a severe chilling effect on the right of those domiciled here to vote."
The ACLU's motion also asks the court to order the secretary of state to show why it isn't in contempt of court.