Committee of conference changes to the state's voter ID law were supposed to improve it. They weakened it instead. As flawed as the existing law is, it is preferable to the compromise bill legislators will consider tomorrow.
This September, the second phase of New Hampshire's 2012 voter ID law kicks in. It reduces the list of photo IDs that are automatically accepted at the polling place, and it requires that local election officials photograph anyone who shows up without a photo ID.
Democrats, who want the entire photo ID law abolished, know they cannot repeal the law while Republicans hold the Senate. Instead, they tried to mandate that student IDs be accepted and that the photograph provision be stricken. Not only did Senate Republicans nearly completely cave on those two points, but they allowed another concession that weakens the law so badly that it is hardly a check on fraud at all.
First, the Senate's committee of conference negotiators agreed to permanently accept IDs issued by New Hampshire high schools and colleges. Fine, but what consequential concession did they get in exchange? None.
Second, Senate negotiators agreed to postpone the photo requirement until 2015. The cost of the equipment is a legitimate issue. But holding it for two years all but nullifies it, leaving no photographic record of challenged voters while opponents seek to repeal the provision.
Third, and worst of all, Senate negotiators agreed to make permanent a temporary provision that let local election officials last year accept any photo ID they deemed valid. This was never intended to be permanent. It ensures that election rules are not uniform statewide. It gives too much discretion to local elected officials, and it weakens the photo ID requirement so much that it might prove meaningless in some communities.
This bill is less a compromise than a series of concessions to people who would prefer to see no restrictions on voting at all. If these concessions are made, photo ID opponents will not stop. They have already said they will seek next year to remove the remaining provisions they dislike. Why spot them the ball halfway to the goal line?