Voter Identification Reform in New Hampshire

Options for Reforming Voter Identification Requirements
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1112-05
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Presently, New Hampshire is one of twenty states in the country that does not require identification to vote. In 2011, the New Hampshire General Court passed Senate Bill 129, which would have required that voters present a valid state or federal government-issued photograph identification (photo ID). Governor Lynch vetoed the bill, saying that it would disenfranchise segments of the population and claiming that New Hampshire does not currently see many cases of voter fraud. However, debate on the issue continues, and the state legislature is again examining options for reforming voter identification requirements in the 2012 legislative session.

This report examines the potential policy options associated with voter identification and looks at the costs and benefits offered by each choice. After a review of the current requirements for voter registration and voting in New Hampshire, we investigate the degree to which eligible voters already possess government-issued photo identification in the state; we estimate that approximately 97 percent of eligible voters in NH already possess photo identification issued by the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). We then consider the possible effects of different types of voter identification laws, including benefits (e.g., reducing opportunity for electoral fraud), costs (e.g., monetary implementation costs, potential disenfranchisement), and unintended consequences (e.g., reduced voter turnout). We also identify the specific demographics that a more stringent voter ID requirement are more likely to affect, and discuss the ways the state could make a transition easier for these groups. Not surprisingly, we find a direct relationship between efficacy at deterring voter fraud and cost: options that make fraud more difficult have higher direct, indirect, and externalized costs. Through our report, we hope to inform the debate on voter ID requirements by providing a balanced summary of the potential costs and benefits of voter ID laws in New Hampshire.