June 20. 2013 12:33PM

Agreement keeps NH student ID cards as valid ID for voting

Senior Political Reporter

CONCORD – New Hampshire student identification cards were restored as a permanent valid means of identification for voting under an agreement reached by House and Senate conferees Thursday.

Under current law, passed by last year's GOP-controlled Legislature, student Ids will no longer be valid as of September of this year.

This year, the Democratic-led House originally restored all student IDs in its version of House Bill 595, but the Republican-controlled Senate removed them, effective Sept. 1, instead proposing to leave it up to local elected officials to judge whether forms of identification not specifically on a honed-down statutory list is legitimate.

Under the agreement finalized Thursday, the Senate agreed to allow New Hampshire-related student Ids in the law.

The amendment that will now go to the full House and Senate for final approval next week specifies that the "valid student identification card" must include a photo and be issued by "a college, university, or career school in New Hampshire and approved to operate or licensed to operate in New Hampshire."

The amendment also specifies that identification cards issued by the state university system and Dartmouth College are also acceptable.

Also acceptable under the proposal will be cards issued by any public high school in the state or non-public high schools "accredited by a private school accrediting agency that is recognized" by the state Department of Education.

In addition to student IDs, the proposal would continue to require a driver's license, an armed services identification card, or a United States passport or passcard.

The agreement also allows local election officials to verify the identity of any prospective voter who does not present a valid ID.

Any voter whose identity is challenged must fill out a challenged voter affidavit swearing to his or her identify.

Under current law, beginning in September of this year, local officials would be required to take a photograph of anyone filling out a challenged voter affidavit and attach it to the affidavit.

The Senate agreed under the new plan to put off that requirement until September of 2015, but legislation is expected to be filed next year to remove the photo requirement next year.

Rep. Gary Richardson, D-Concord, a member of the House Election Law, said that he will probably file the legislation himself.

He said the agreement reached on the issue by the conferees was "a major accomplishment" and satisified the concerns of city and town clerks.

The agreement requires any college or university of the state university system that issues identification cards after Jan. 1, 2014 to include a date of issuance.

The proposals says the any photo ID would be acceptable up to five years after its expiration, but student ID cards, even without an expiration date, will be acceptable at any election prior to Sept. 1, 2018. Anyone 65 years of age or older may use an ID "without regard to expiration date."

A separate conference committee agreed to kill a plan pushed by Secretary of State William Gardner to adjust the state's voter registration form. That bill had been attached to unrelated legislation to expand the base of entities that pay into a fund that purchases children's vaccines.

The conferees agreed to separate the vaccine portion of the bill and send it to the House and Senate for final approval.

They also agreed to work on voter registration bill so new legislation can be introduced next year.

The current voter registration law says that to register, one must show that he or she is domiciled in New Hampshire. To do that, current law says, one must sign a form acknowledging that he is subject to the laws of the state, "including laws requiring a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a New Hampshire's driver's license within 60 days of becoming a resident."

A Superior Court judge ruled last fall the reference to motor vehicle laws caused confusion and ordered the state to remove the language from the voter registration forms before the 2012 election. The question for future elections is still pending before the judge.

The bill passed by the House removed any reference to motor vehicle laws. But the Senate inserted similar, but not identical, language as current law.

The Senate version says a person registering to vote must sign a form acknowledging that he is subject to the laws of the state, including laws that "may" require a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a driver's license within 60 days of becoming a resident.