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Vote-Behind-Bars Bill Headed to NH House

A bill pending before Granite State lawmakers would allow inmates to vote from behind bars. (SayCheeeese)
A bill pending before Granite State lawmakers would allow inmates to vote from behind bars. (SayCheeeese)
February 29, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. – A bill that would let convicted felons vote by absentee ballot while they are incarcerated is headed to the full House to be debated by Granite State lawmakers.

Wendy Underhill, program director-elections redistricting with the National Conference of State Legislators, says the proposal would put New Hampshire in line with two neighboring states where felons never lose their right to vote. At the same time, she says there aren't many other bills like it currently pending in other states.

"There is a similar bill this year in Hawaii, but I don't see bills of this nature very often,” she states. “So, it's as if Vermont and Maine have been hanging out there with it on their own for a few years, and then this year we have these two bills. "

The House Bill (1532) does have four co-sponsors but likely faces an uphill battle after members of the Elections Law Committee voted 15-3 that it would be "inexpedient to legislate," which means the committee wants the measure killed.

Underhill says the national trend leans in favor of restoring voting rights, and New Hampshire is in-line with that trend because the Granite State does allow felons to vote as soon as they are released.

"Others will ask you to wait until you are done with probation or parole, and some ask you to go through a procedure of asking to have your rights restored,” she explains.
“So there is a whole continuum, and generally speaking, it's been a move toward the easier restoration of rights."

The state’s Department of Corrections has taken no position on the vote-behind-bars bill.

Underhill says there seems to be greater interest in the whole issue of restoring felons voting rights and says that may be because this is an election year.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH