N.H. Supreme Court Declines to Weigh in on Voter Registration Bill

The bill ties the right to vote with registering a vehicle

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The New Hampshire Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on a bill tying the right to vote with registering a vehicle.

Under the bill, anyone who declares New Hampshire their home for voting purposes - including out-of-state students and military personnel - would be considered a resident under motor vehicle law. Drivers would then be required to obtain New Hampshire licenses, and car owners would have to register their vehicles.

House lawmakers asked the court in March for an advisory opinion on two issues: whether the bill would violate a specific part of the state Constitution that provides every adult inhabitant the right to vote and whether it would violate any other provisions of the state or U.S. Constitution.

But the court Thursday would not answer the second question because it historically does not answer general inquiries on constitutionality, and it declined to answer the first because it will be hearing arguments later this month in a case that raises very similar issues.

A Superior Court judge last July struck down as unconstitutional similar language in a 2012 law that requires people who registered to vote to declare New Hampshire their legal residence and abide by its laws, including motor vehicle requirements. The Supreme Court will hear the appeal in that case April 22.

The law survived a veto by then-Gov. John Lynch but the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union later challenged it in court on behalf of four out-of-state college students. They argued that the law would freeze out eligible voters and amount to a poll tax that forces people to pay the state to vote. The law's backers, however, argued that it simply clarified that people should vote where they live.

The Legislature also is considering a bill that would limit voting eligibility to people who have established their "domicile" in New Hampshire for voting purposes for at least 30 days before an election. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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