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Signs of movement on NH voter ID bill

By Holly Ramer
Associated Press / May 29, 2012
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CONCORD, N.H.—House and Senate lawmakers indicated Tuesday that a compromise might be possible on a bill to require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots if they can resolve differences over issues such as when certain provisions should take effect and what types of IDs can be used.

Sen. Russell Prescott, the bill's prime sponsor, opened the negotiating session by telling House members that their version of the bill was likely to be vetoed by the governor or challenged in court, while the Senate version "is ready for prime time."

"I think you guys are on the ropes, and I'm ready to battle hard," said Prescott, R-Kingston.

But Prescott later said the Senate was willing to consider some changes. For example, the House wants to require voters to present photo identification cards or sign affidavits and be photographed by election workers. The Senate version of the bill would let people sign affidavits without being photographed, but senators said Tuesday they'd be willing to consider the picture-taking provision if it was delayed until next year.

House lawmakers also indicated they might consider allowing student IDs to be used, as the Senate wants, though they asked for language specifying that the cards must be issued by accredited schools.

Rep. David Bates, who opposed including student ID cards, noted that the number of driver's licenses and non-driver photo ID cards issued by the state greatly exceeds the number of registered voters, indicating that there is not a huge population of people who would be turning to alternative IDs. He said the Senate version of the bill would fail to deter fraud.

"I don't think it's necessary or desirable to expand the list of acceptable IDs," said Bates, R-Windham. "If that process is corrupt, inevitably, we have a government that is corrupt."

The Secretary of State's office does not object to the Senate's version but has concerns that it would be difficult to implement House version in time for the fall elections because it includes earlier deadlines for various provisions.

Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who vetoed a photo ID bill last year, has said he is open to voter ID legislation if it protects people's constitutional right to vote and ensures every vote is counted.

Lynch had objected to the narrower list of acceptable IDs in last year's bill, and to a provision that would have delayed the counting of some votes. That bill allowed voters who did not have valid identification to cast a provisional ballot and gave them 2 1/2 days to produce a valid photo ID. Local election clerks said the provisional ballot would be difficult and costly to administer.

The negotiating team working on the current bill meets again Wednesday.

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