A Republican-backed bill tightening definitions for voting eligibility in New Hampshire could run up against resistance from Gov. Chris Sununu, if he maintains the position articulated in a video clip that’s being circulated by a progressive group that advocates for voting rights.
Sununu’s office has not responded to repeated requests by phone and email to confirm his position on the bill.
In an exchange recorded and published online by America Votes, a young activist asks the governor if he supports the latest version of HB372. The latest version of the bill changes the definition of "domicile" to mean someone's "principal place of physical presence to the exclusion of all others," removing the phrase "for the indefinite future."
The activist describes as a bill that would require out of state students to obtain a New Hampshire license in order to vote. At that point, according to the video, the governor jumps in.
“No. I hate it. I know what you’re talking about. I’m not a fan,” Sununu says. “I’m hoping that the Legislature kills it. I’m not a fan at all.”
The activist then presses the governor further.
“Could I get a yes or no answer from you,” the activist asks, “if this bill ever reaches your desk or any form similar to it that suppresses the student vote will you say no to it?”
“I will never support anything that suppresses the student vote,” the governor responds. “End of story.”
The text of the bill doesn’t include any specific requirement regarding drivers licenses, but the latest version would change definitions for voting eligibility in a way that would require someone to take steps to prove they intend to stay in the state.
Supporters, including the Secretary of State’s office, say the bill is needed to clarify voter eligibility standards.
When asked Tuesday whether the office supports the latest version of the legislation, Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan wrote in an email: “Yes, generally speaking we have consistently supported efforts to make it clear you must be a domiciled resident of New Hampshire to vote here, and to remove any ambiguity between the definition of residency and domicile when it comes to voting.”
Critics, however, say the bill would disenfranchise more transient people, like college students, and could effectively constitute a poll tax by requiring people to seek out a driver’s license or other forms of documentation to prove their residency.