It’s pretty clear that the Republicans are going to draw the new voting district lines to their advantage and out of the public eye. The Governor will not have to keep his promise to sign any bi-partisan redistricting commission bill that comes to his desk, because his friends in the legislature killed that bill, HB 121. Neither will he have to take a stand on a public redistricting process because those two bills, HB 428 and SB 90, were also killed.
When it comes to no-excuse absentee voting, it will go as it came, in response to Covid 19 restrictions. When Covid 19 restrictions are lifted, no-excuse absentee voting will fade away.
We are likely to have to show more proof of identity to obtain an absentee ballot. Both SB 54 and HB 292 require additional proof of identity. They also require a signature comparison. The U S District Court for NH ruled signature comparisons unconstitutional in Saucedo vs. Gardner in 2018 on the grounds that election officials are not hand-writing experts. If passed in their current form, both bills will likely be challenged in court.
Most bills designed to make it harder to vote died in the House Election Law Committee. However, HB 285 passed the House. It seeks to speed up the process of purging voters who have moved or died. The danger here is that eligible voters may be inadvertently purged. However, as long as we have same day registration, the wrongly-purged voter can re-register and vote on election day.
On the bright side, the HB 555 passed the House. It allows those imprisoned for misdemeanors or awaiting trial to vote.
HB 480, the public right to inspect ballots after all appeals have expired, HB 491, overvote correction, and SB 79, authorizing moderators to verify the machine count, are designed to protect our system from fraud and inadvertent machine errors that could change an election outcome. All three bills have been retained.
SB 43 requires a forensic audit of the Windham 2020 general election results. It is on its way to the Governor’s desk. If the audit finds any significant issues that caused the 300 vote discrepancy between the machine count and a hand recount of the Windham house race, there may be more interest in HB 480, HB 491, and SB79.