Judge considering request to dismiss voter rights lawsuit
NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire officials on Tuesday urged a judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires additional documentation from voters who move to the state within 30 days of an election, suggesting it wasn’t harming anyone.
The state Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters filed lawsuits against the state last year, claiming the SB3 law was confusing, unnecessary and intimidating. A judge in September allowed the law to take effect but blocked penalties of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for fraud and said further hearings were necessary. The lawsuits have since been consolidated.
The law was passed after President Donald Trump alleged widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire, though there’s been no evidence to support that. Democrats challenged the measure during legislative debate, but Republicans contended existing state laws create the potential for fraud.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the state argued the lawsuit failed to allege any injury from the law. They said the plaintiffs had no trouble voting, arguing two were already registered voters and a third eventually voted in a local election.
“Under SB3, everyone gets to vote. No provision of SB3 prevents a person from registering to vote, voting in an election,” Assistant Attorney General Anthony Galdieri told the court.
A lawyer for the League of Women Voters, Bruce Spiva, argued the law creates an atmosphere of confusion in which people would be dissuaded from voting and places a burden on the organization, which now must spend money to educate voters and encourage them to endure the long lines and piles of paperwork expected to accompany it.
“This law, with all its byzantine contours, with its threats of criminal penalties if one checks the wrong box, is certainly in open conflict with the League’s mission,” Spiva told the court.
Spiva said the League wants to amend the original complaint to add three more plaintiffs, students who would need to register in New Hampshire and “don’t have or are not certain they have the requisite documentation they would need.”
“They find the law confusing and intimidating,” Spiva said. “Our position here is that it burdens the right to vote.”
A judge said he would consider the motion to dismiss but wouldn’t say when he would rule.
The two sides also sparred over a request from the League for additional documents from the state, including the state’s voter database and communication between the state and local officials regarding the law. Lawyers for the League argued the data was necessary to better understand the harm the new law poses and the potential burden it is putting on local election officials.
Galdieri, the assistant attorney general, countered that the state had already given the League more than 1,000 pages of documents related to the law. He argued providing the voter database could open the state to hacking and hurt efforts to register voters if they knew their personal information would routinely be fodder for court cases like this one.
“The database is full of very sensitive information, poses unique security risks,” he said.
The judge said he would take the request for the additional documents under consideration.