New Hampshire is among a group of states, including Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, that are required under the Voting Rights Act of 1964 to submit any election law changes to the Department of Justice for review to determine whether they would result in racial discrimination. The state came under the act's purview because of poor voter turnout in 10 towns in the 1968 presidential election and because it still had a literacy test on the books at the time.
Under the new law, which won approval Tuesday, voters will be required to show photo identification beginning in November's general election. A wide range of identification, including student IDs, will be accepted this year, but after that only driver's licenses, state-issued non-driver's identification cards, passports or military IDs will allowed. Someone without photo identification would sign an affidavit and be photographed by an election official.
Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed the bill, saying he would have been OK with a bill that allowed many types of IDs to be used but believed the final version was far more restrictive than necessary. Supporters argued the requirements would minimize the potential for fraud, and the Legislature later overrode the governor's veto.
House Speaker William O'Brien, a Republican, said even going into the Democratic National Convention, being held in Charlotte, N.C., requires identification.
"Voting is a duty that is of greater importance than taking a plane, train, or going into a commercial or federal building, which all require ID," he said.
New Hampshire, after decades of failing to submit law changes to the Department of Justice, has sent hundreds of requests since 2004; all have been approved. In approving the most recent change, the Department of Justice said Tuesday's approval did not bar subsequent litigation to block the law.