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New Hampshire Supreme Court denies access to voter database in suit over registration law

By Gabriel Neves | Feb 5, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) – A request to produce a voters database that was ordered by a lower court as evidence in a lawsuit was denied by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Robert Lynn issued a 10-page ruling on Jan. 24, vacating the New Hampshire Superior Court's order in the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and several individuals in a challenge to a voter registration law.

The high court concluded that the Superior Court erred ordering the state's secretary of state and attorney general to produce the New Hampshire Centralized Voter Registration Database, concluding that the list is "exempt from disclosure by statute."

The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire the New Hampshire Democratic Party sued over the validity of some state voting laws.

The cases involve challenges to Senate Bill 3 under the New Hampshire Constitution. Enacted as Laws 2017, chapter 205 and codified in RSA chapter 654, SB 3 changes the way in which persons must substantiate their domicile when registering to vote. 

The procedure for verifying one’s domicile under the new law differs depending on whether registration takes place more than 30 days before an election or within 30 days of an election, including on Election Day.  

"The plaintiffs allege that SB 3 violates the New Hampshire Constitution because it: (1) unduly burdens the equal right to vote guaranteed to all persons domiciled in New Hampshire; (2) contradicts the domicile requirements therein; (3) denies prospective registrants the equal protection of the law; and (4) is void for vagueness," the ruling said.

During the discovery process, the plaintiffs requested the most current version of the database, which contained personal information about voters, including military status, driver's license and Social Security numbers.

The lower court ordered the secretary of state and attorney general to produce the information.

"The court found that the database was relevant because it contains material that the plaintiffs’ expert could use to provide the court with information about the persons who are burdened by SB 3 and the extent of the burden," the ruling states.

Despite proposed limitations on what information could be used, the state authorities filed for a petition for original jurisdiction at the Supreme Court, which vacated the order.

New Hampshire Supreme Court Case number 2018-0208

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