Democracy thrives where many participate. So, removing barriers to participation encourages a healthy democracy.
Gov. Chris Sununu’s decision to veto the bill removing the voting barrier of requiring a specific excuse to receive a ballot in the mail reflects poorly on the process and on New Hampshire. The bill would have allowed any active registered voter to receive a ballot by mail for any specific election, simply by asking for it. No longer would we be treated like potentially truant school children needing a note from our doctor.
“Excuse required” voting forces us to know (or pretend to know) what our lives will be like on a specific day, weeks or months in the future. “No excuse” benefits everyone, including seniors who might have trouble getting to the polls, rural voters far from a polling place, first responders whose schedules can be preempted, a single parent working two jobs, families whose kids get sick, someone with an unexpected trip and all of us in dicey weather. Let’s all be adults in this conversation; as long as we are following the basic rules for voting, why treat this like an episode of Big Brother?
Nationally, 32 states already offer this convenience to their citizens. Several more have limited requirements or are debating removing the requirements entirely. The trend is clear, and it’s clear our Legislature supports House Bill 611 to end the specific excuses requirement for absentee ballots.
We should also look at turnout. Right now, New Hampshire’s 2018 voter turnout ranked us 15th in percentage of registered voters who cast ballots. If, as many studies have shown, specific excuse language drives down participation, why would we do this?