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N.H. debates voter ID changes

CONCORD, N.H. — New restric­tions in New Hampshire’s voter identification law that are set to go into effect in September could cause delays at the polls, deter some from voting, and cost the state close to $1 million, opponents of the restrictions told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Representative Lucy Weber, Democrat of Walpole, said that passing legislation repealing those tighter restrictions will allow the state to examine the need for a voter ID law before moving forward.

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‘‘I think it’s a good time to stop and take a breath before we progress to the phase two provisions which are both more restrictive to people’s ­access to the polls and far more expensive for the folks that run elections,’’ Weber said.

Under the measure being considered at Wednesday’s hearing in the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, voters would be required to show a photo ID before obtaining a ballot, including student IDs and other forms of identification that were allowed during the 2012 election.

If the next phase of the state’s current voter ID law is implemented, it would require election officials to photograph voters without identification. It would also restrict acceptable identification to driver’s licenses, state-issued identification cards, passports, or military IDs that are no more than five years past their expiration.

In addition, election officials would no longer have author­ity to verify voters from their area whom they recognize.

Jess Clark — state director for America Votes, a voter ­advocacy group — said her organ­ization calculated that the next phase will cost the state $921,000 over the next four years. Those costs would arise from educating the public on the changes, additional staff and equipment costs relating to educational materials, and photography equipment.

Cordell Johnston, a lobbyist for the New Hampshire Municipal Association, said the new requirements place a significant burden on the elections workers.

‘‘The whole process will take longer, it will involve more election workers, and the ones that are there will have to work longer into the night,’’ he said.

The New Hampshire League of Women Voters and the Civil Liberties Union urged the Senate to consider repealing the state’s voter ID law altogether, but said the House-passed bill blocking the next phase is better than nothing. They argue that no evidence of voter fraud exists in New Hampshire and that the current law creates barriers to the polls, especially for elderly, low-income, and disabled voters, at a time when government should be working to increase access to the polls.

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