New Hampshire Ranks Last in Cost of Voting Index

New Hampshire Ranks Last in Cost of Voting Index

Kaylin Moriarty, Staff Writer

DURHAM, NH-  To vote in any election requires effort, and while many states are beginning to make voting more convenient, others haven’t been so adaptive.

According to theCost of Voting Index (COVI), a study published in the Election Law Journal analyzing the challenges of voting by looking at each state’s current voting laws and restrictions, New Hampshire has been named the most difficult state in the country to cast a ballot.

The COVI considered many aspects of the voting process including voter registration laws, voter ID laws, voter inconvenience and absentee-ballot options. The state of New Hampshire claimed its title of “most costly” by being one of the few states that does not offer early voting options, continues to maintain strict voter ID requirements and does not offer online voter registration or mail-in voting options.

With a number of Republican sponsored bills, including Senate Bill 418, contributing to the high“cost” of voting in New Hampshire, organizations like 603 Forward, a voting advocacy group, are pointing toward the Republican Party as the ones to blame.

The ranking is the clear result of Republican lawmakers’ consistent anti-voter platform, implementation of anti-voter laws, and rejection of bills that would strengthen election access in New Hampshire,” stated a 603 Forward press release published on Sept. 20, 2022.

603 Forward Co-Founder and Chair, Lucas Meyer further expressed how Republicans are making voting “more complicated, more burdensome and more confusing” for voters.

“I think when we say that the anti-voter agenda has led to this high cost of voting it is because we do not have online voter registration and we do not have expanded access to absentee ballots,” explained Meyer. “So while it is great that we do have same-day voter registration and same-day voting, Republicans are trying to make that harder and more complicated to do; they are failing but they are trying. There are a lot of very common modernization reforms we could do that would make it easier for every voter to take part in our elections.”

Meyer drew attention to automatic online voter registration as a modernization reform, which is something many states have begun to implement. He also reflected on the addition of expanded absentee ballots for voters in New Hampshire during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were vetoed by Gov. Sununu when being considered permanently.

“During the pandemic we expanded absentee ballot access because of COVID, so if you were scared of COVID you could use an absentee ballot, and what happened? A lot of people voted and there was a diversity of results from each party,” said Meyer. “Why we decided to roll all of that back, I do not know. Especially when the governor, the secretary of state, Republicans, Democrats all said despite all of the challenges of the pandemic, we ran elections accurately, securely and had record turnout.”

While Meyer and 603 Forward take a firm stance on the matter, not all agree that the many laws and policies surrounding voting in New Hampshire are Republican Party attempts to discourage voters. When asked for his thoughts on the subject, Director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and Political Science Professor Andrew Smith stated that he does not believe anyone is trying to discourage voters.

“In any voting, there is always the trade-off of making voting really simple and then making voting something that you can believe the results of,” said Smith.

As New Hampshire continues to uphold policies and restrictions that add to the personal cost for voters, Smith said he believes New Hampshire is just trying to make sure elections are run accurately and legitimately.

Despite the “Cost of Voting Index” conclusions, the “cost” of voting has not deterred New Hampshire voters’ attendance in the past. Data from the U.S Election Project shows that the 2020 New Hampshire Primary recorded 42.4% for the VEP Total Ballot Counted turnout rate, while the 2016 New Hampshire Primary  recorded 52.4%, some of the highest turnout rates in the country in both elections.

Smith pointed out that while Oregon is one of states making voting easiest, there has not been a dramatic increase in regard to voter turnout rates.

“Voting is very easy in every state in the country. If you want to vote you can vote, it’s not a difficult challenge,” said Smith. “The biggest barrier to people’s voting, and this is something the census has been tracking in studies for decades, is that people aren’t interested in voting.”

Smith discussed what he believes to be the real issues: a lack of education on voting and a lack of understanding on why people should vote.

“If we don’t teach people the basics about our political system and the citizens’ role of responsibility in the political system, then why should we be surprised when people really don’t pay much attention to it and don’t care much about it?” said Smith.

For students looking for more information on how to vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 8, 603 Forward offers information on their website. Students can also access more information on how to vote by checking out the University of New Hampshire Voting page.