Why New Hampshire is singling out some primary voters to pose for Polaroid pictures

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Before the people of New Hampshire hit the polls today for the presidential primary, they should make sure they are picture-ready.

For the first time since its passage in 2011, the state's controversial voter ID law will be fully implemented. In order to cast a vote, registered residents will either need to show a government-issued ID at the polls or agree to have their picture taken by poll workers—attached to a signed affidavit saying they are who they are.

The photos will be taken with state-provided Polaroid cameras to avoid any digital trail. ("Sometimes low-tech is better," said the state's Deputy Secretary of State David M. Scanlan.) The affidavit will be sent to the provided address and must be returned within 30 days to verify the resident is the one who filled out the form. New Hampshire's attorney general's office "will be notified of any undeliverable or unanswered letters," reported the Keene Sentinel.


The law has raised alarms in the state on charges that it’s a means of voter intimidation. Research is also emerging that suggests the new wave of voter-ID laws sweeping across the country will have a particularly harmful effect on black and Latino participation at the polls.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

“This is meant to intimidate people, there’s no question about that,” Joan Flood Ashwell of the New Hampshire League of Women Voters told Newsweek of New Hampshire's photo requirement. “It’s saying to voters, ‘We suspect you of being a criminal.’”

The new law also stands to make voting harder to accomplish by increasing the time a voter needs to set aside for hitting the polls. During the 2012 election, when the law was only partially implemented (without officials taking photos of residents), wait times at the polls increased by 50%, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.


Studies about why some eligible voters fail to vote suggest that the overall inconvenience of voting—especially in states with increased legal barriers—factors heavily into why poorer, disproportionately black and Latino voters often fail to reach the polls.

"Voting takes place during the day, in the middle of the week… Most employers will give you an hour to go vote and come back, but not three," notes Danielle Belton at The Root.


In a recently released working paper from researchers at the University of California, San Diego, the net effect of these kinds of voter-ID changes is described as having a "negative impact on the turnout of Hispanics, Blacks, and mixed-race Americans in primaries and general elections."

Analyzing voter outcomes from 2008 to 2012, the authors found that Latino voter turnout was 10.3 points lower in states where photo ID is required to vote compared to states where it is not mandatory. For primary elections, like today’s vote in New Hampshire, they found photo ID laws suppress Latino turnout by 6.3 points and black turnout by 1.6 points.


"Voter ID laws skew democracy in favor of whites and those on the political right," the paper finds. The authors note the analysis "cannot show a definitive causal connection between voter ID laws and turnout," but their conclusions align with similar past reports from government offices and private enterprises alike.

Notably, a University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy study came out late last month finding that the state's "Democratic primary voter base has grown significantly [in recent years], but the Republican primary base has not."


Taken together, the new photo ID law stands to give conservatives an edge in the 2016 election that runs counter to demographic trends on the ground.

Sixteen states have new voter restrictions in place for the 2016 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy research center. Those states comprise an total 178 electoral votes, including some of the biggest states in the country.


Some of the laws have been ruled against in the courts. In Texas, for example, voters were required to have state-issued IDs even though about 600,000 Texans, most of whom are black and Latino, don't have one, according to the Justice Department. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the state's law was "designed to discriminate," while Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that it "likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters." The Supreme Court allowed the law to remain for the 2014 election, but it struck down key parts of it last year as a violation of the Civil Rights-era Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A total of 33 states have voter-ID laws, some of which were enacted many years ago, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


In the case of New Hampshire, the law was passed when Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives in 2010 for the first time since 1911. The bill was originally vetoed by Governor John Lynch, a Democrat.

"An eligible voter who goes to the polls to vote on Election Day should be able to have his or her vote count on Election Day," said Lynch in his veto message.


The Republican-majority legislature pressed on, eventually overriding the veto. Initially, the Department of Justice investigated the unprecedented law, but ended up determining that it didn't violate the constitution.

Republican state senator and bill co-sponsor John Barnes, Jr., suggested that if a photo ID is necessary to board a plane, it should be necessary to cast a vote. Like other Republican-led legislatures across the country, which have lead the charge for new voter-ID laws, Barnes cited voter fraud as a reason to implement the change.


"I feel that there are people up here [in New Hampshire] voting that don't belong up here," Barnes told Reuters at the time.

There have been a total of six cases of voter fraud in the state since 2000, according to the League of Women Voters.


Ironically, one of those cases included the son of the state's Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley in the 2008 general election. Bradley was running for the U.S. House seat, and his son, who lived in Colorado at the time, illegally casted a vote in both states.

Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.

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