New Hampshire governor vetoes voter photo ID bill

BOSTON Mon Jun 27, 2011 5:05pm EDT

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BOSTON (Reuters) - New Hampshire Governor John Lynch on Monday vetoed a bill to require voters to present photo identification before casting a ballot after critics said it would discourage some voters from going to the polls.

"An eligible voter who goes to the polls to vote on Election Day should be able to have his or her vote count on Election Day," said Lynch, a Democrat, in his veto message.

"SB 129 creates a real risk that New Hampshire voters will be denied their right to vote," he said, adding the state has consistently high voter turnout, no voter fraud problem and strong election laws already in place.

The state's Republican-led legislature passed the bill earlier this month.

Republican state senator and bill co-sponsor John Barnes, Jr. said if photo identification is required to board a plane, it should also be mandated for voting.

Republican-controlled legislatures around the country have cited fraud as they push for voter ID bills.

"I feel that there are people up here (in New Hampshire) voting that don't belong up here," said Barnes, adding that his phone rang "off the hook" with constituent support for the measure.

The bill called for voters to present valid photo identification at the polling station, or vote by provisional ballot and appear in person before a government official by the third day after the election with proper photo identification.

The photo identification must be issued by the United States or by New Hampshire or be a valid state driver's license, according to the bill.

Voters could get a voucher to cover the $10 cost of a non-drivers identification under the legislation.

Lynch said the bill's provisions were among the "most restrictive" in the nation and could adversely affect seniors, students, disabled voters and those who don't drive.

"We do not want to disenfranchise our seniors or our young people or low income voters," said House Democratic leader Representative Terie Norelli, who opposed the bill. "Those are the groups that would have the most difficult time complying."

Although other New England states including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine have considered similar legislation in 2011, those bills have lingered in committees.

Fourteen states now ask voters to show photo identification at the polls or have passed laws to do so, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The bill stands a chance of resurrection this fall when both chambers could take another vote, aiming for a veto-proof margin.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)

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