The following is a transcript of New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s opening statement to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voter laws and H.R. 1. It has been edited for clarity.
“I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today about a critically important issue that impacts all of us, the integrity of our elections, a foundation of our free society. I certainly support efforts of individual states to improve their own elections. The states have long been testing grounds for innovation and enhancing and protecting the most fundamental right of the citizens in this country. That’s our right to vote.
With that said, I am deeply troubled and concerned about the direction some in Congress would take the states in terms of the conduct of elections. Unjustified federal intrusion into the election process of the individual states will damage voter confidence, diminish the importance of Election Day itself and ultimately result in lower voter turnout. We only need to look at the history of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 — commonly called the motor voter law — to see that federal involvement in the election process does not render the promised results.
When the NVRA was enacted by Congress, it was believed that many more United States citizens would be able to vote and thus vote. Millions of dollars were spent by the states to comply with that act. It completely changed the voter registration process in the states.
In contrast, New Hampshire maintained an exemption to the NVRA due to having Election Day registration at the polling places. And as a result, our voter turnout of voting age population surged to the top tier of voter turnout among the states, and [New Hampshire] has consistently maintained this position in the top three states for the past four presidential elections. Since the year 2000, New Hampshire has been double-digit percentage points higher than the national average.
Again, using voting age population, the attached voter turnout charts will illustrate these trends and be very important to take a close look at those charts.
The one-size-fits-all federal approach legislation known as the For the People Act would trample New Hampshire’s state Constitution, which requires all votes to be received, counted, and the results publicly announced on the day of the election. And it permits absentee ballots to be used only by voters who will be absent on Election Day or who have a disability preventing the voter from attending the polling place.
The election process in New Hampshire is a relatively simple one. The massive federal legislation contemplated by Congress will over-complicate our election system at tremendous financial costs. It would negate traditions and procedures that have served New Hampshire voters well, some for over 200 years.
I believe the charts that I have provided based on facts are self-explanatory and why I believe this legislation H.R. 1 will hurt voter participation in the States and especially in my state of New Hampshire,”