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A Breakthrough for Voting Rights in New Hampshire?

State lawmakers are poised to introduce a bill for automatic voter registration — a system that would make it easier to vote.

January 29, 2019

In New Hampshire this week, lawmakers are set to introduce the state’s first-ever automatic voter registration (AVR) bill on Wednesday. State Senator Melanie Levesque (D) is the lead sponsor for the bill, which was backed by a diverse coalition of groups that includes America Votes, the Brennan Center for Justice, The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights, ACLU New Hampshire, the League of Women Voters, and numerous grassroots organizations.  

If passed, New Hampshire’s AVR bill would mark a positive turn for voting rights in the state. In the past two years, New Hampshire has enacted laws that suppress the vote and disenfranchise college students. The state does, however, provide same-day registration for voters.

AVR is a simple, secure, and affordable solution for streamlining the way Americans register to vote. With AVR, eligible voters are automatically registered when they interact with a government agency, unless they choose to opt out. The Brennan Center pioneered AVR and has long advocated for its implementation across the United States. The policy has gained popularity in recent years: There are now 15 states, along with Washington, DC, that will have AVR ready in time for the 2020 election.

Last fall, Nevada and Michigan voters approved ballot measures to adopt AVR. This year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo included AVR both in his 2019 legislative agenda and in his proposed budget. States such as Minnesota and Maine are considering AVR in 2019, and in New Mexico an AVR bill has already started moving through the legislature. On a national level, AVR is one of the key provisions in H.R. 1, or the For the People Act, a comprehensive democracy reform bill introduced earlier this month in the House of Representatives.

“The bill is a common sense approach to streamlining voter registration as a secure, accurate process that cleans up voter rolls and saves time and money,” said Natalie Tennant, manager of State Advocacy for the Brennan Center. “As the state with the first presidential primary, it only makes sense that New Hampshire would be part of the continuing movement of modernizing elections and be a leader with this passage and implementation.”

Across the country, states are leading the way to fight barriers to participating in the election system. New Hampshire now has the opportunity to join.

(Image: Zack Frank)