If the “For the People” Act is good for New Hampshire, why won’t U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas testify on its behalf?
That’s the questions some in Concord are asking as all four Democrats in the state’s federal delegation declined requests to defend H.R. 1
Republicans in the New Hampshire House are looking to change election laws in an effort to counter H.R. 1, the massive federal election overhaul from Democrats in Congress. On Wednesday, House Election Law Committee chair Rep. Barbara Griffin (R- Goffstown) sponsored an amendment to SB 89 requiring state and county elections taking place in New Hampshire be conducted using New Hampshire election law, not the federal government’s.
Griffin’s amendment was passed along party lines in an 11-8 vote.
Notably absent: Any word from U.S. Sens. Hassan and Shaheen, who support the federal bill to override state election laws; or U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Pappas, both of whom have already voted for the bill and claim it’s necessary to stop state laws that are “worse than Jim Crow.”
All were invited to testify, live or via Zoom, or to submit testimony to the committee. They all declined.
For a bill with such a noble purpose, Republicans noted, the congressional Democrats who support it are notably silent.
“Today I asked several times where our federal delegation is,” state Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester) said during the hearing. “Why couldn’t they be bothered to come and speak about this amendment and the ‘For the People’ Act? Not even one submitted a written statement or sent a surrogate to speak on their behalf. We also heard today that none of them have spoken to the secretary of state’s office about how this would affect New Hampshire or why they are supporting it.”
Under H.R. 1, federal law would ban states like New Hampshire from:
—Requiring voter ID.
–Requiring ID in order to register to vote.
–Requiring mail-in ballots to be witnessed; or
–Prohibiting or restrict “ballot harvesting,” the practice of campaign or party workers collecting ballots from voters and turning them in.
By opposing a federal mandate for these policies, Democrats say, Republicans are practicing voter suppression. State Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley called the GOP’s vote on Wednesday “voter disenfranchisement pure and simple.” Former state Sen. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline) says New Hampshire is “one of 43 states proposing voter suppression laws.”
Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) first told NHJournal the delegation has never asked him about the legislation, despite its direct impact on New Hampshire elections. Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, who testified in favor of the GOP amendment, told the committee the delegation still had not spoken to the office about H.R.1.
“This would change every area of our election process, and really it would not be recognizable in the future as it would be today,” Scanlan said. That directly contradicts claims by Hassan that H.R. 1 “really doesn’t change the way New Hampshire would run its elections.”
“The senator is either lying or ignorant as to the effects of [the bill],” Berry told the committee.
Meanwhile, a survey of New Hampshire town clerks — the officials charged with conducting elections — found they overwhelmingly oppose the bill.
Election Law Committee Democrats warned that if H.R. 1 and the GOP’s proposed amendment are both signed into law, New Hampshire could find itself in a situation where it will have to hold elections under two separate laws, state and federal.
If so, New Hampshire would use its own laws for elections to state and county elections, and federal law for elections to congressional seats.
“The amendment passed today by Election Law Republicans is blatantly unconstitutional and would turn New Hampshire’s elections into a logistical nightmare,” said Deputy Minority Leader David Cote (D-Nashua), the ranking Democrat on the committee. “Even separating the two elections could be unconstitutional and would be extremely costly for both the state and local communities.”
Republicans insisted it was Congress and Democrats like Hassan and Pappas who are putting the state in this position.
“The amendment to SB 89 will prevent federal overreach, uphold the integrity of our election process, and ensure that New Hampshire remains in charge of its elections, not the Federal Government,” Griffin said after passage. “Republicans will make sure to let Washington D.C. know that H.R. 1/S.1 does not uphold the values of the American people, rather, it’s another attempt at total control.”
New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Stephen Stepanek praised the amendment’s passage and called on the state’s U.S. senators to reject the H.R,1.
“H.R.1 dismantles the successful election processes we’ve fine-tuned over centuries, inherently undermining voter confidence state-wide. While our secretary of state and several town clerks have openly expressed their well-founded opposition to H.R.1, our own federal delegation remains silent on the rationale of their support,” said Stepanek.
The Election Law Committee also passed the entire SB89 election omnibus legislation, including Griffin’s amendment, on a party-line vote. It will be voted on by the full House in early June.