Do you think you should be required to have a photo identification card with you if you want to vote on election day?
That is the issue facing Senators when they vote on Wednesday to either sustain the Governorís veto and kill Senate Bill 129 or vote to override and have SB 129 become law if the House also overrides the veto.
The billís advocates believe that to prevent fraud, voters should have a government issued photo ID with them to lessen chances of someone impersonating another person so they could vote. If a person did not have an ID with them, they could cast a provisional ballot and return within three days with their ID and their ballot would be counted.
Those pushing the bill note that you need an ID to board a plane, check-in at a hotel and often to cash a check. The Secretary State, Bill Gardner, who is the stateís guru on elections, estimates there are 50,000 voters who do not have a government issued ID. These are mostly elderly and disabled people who do not drive.
Critics of the bill, including the Secretary of State and the town clerks, say if the bill passed it would cause chaos at the polls. And many believe the bill would discourage some people from voting.
There are practical problems with the bill, too. In the three days after an election, many town halls are not open full time and it could be a real burden for someone to return with their ID so their provisional ballot could be cast. And it is not easy for many people, especially those without a driverís license, to get to a Motor Vehicle division office and pay $10 for a non driver license ID.
There is also a real issue, in my opinion, with protecting the secrecy of a personís vote. If a voter forgets to bring his or her ID with them on election day, they can cast a provisional ballot, and that is stored separately from the other ballots cast.
At the end of the voting on election day, the regular ballots are counted. The count is 100 votes for Jones for some office and 100 votes for Smith. The voter who forgot his or her ID comes back the day after the election with their ID. Their vote is counted on the third day after the election and it is the only provisional ballot cast in that town. The vote goes to Jones who wins 101 to 100. Everyone knows the provisional ballot turned the election and who cast it. Not a secret vote any longer.
We all want to protect the integrity of our elections. That is fundamental to democracy. But we must be very careful that in our zeal to prevent fraud we do not discourage or make it difficult for honest voters to cast their ballots. It should be noted that fraud at the polls has not been a problem in New Hampshire elections.
Legislators looking ahead to the fall work schedule in Concord could take a sigh of relief with the release late last week of stateís revenues for August.
The goal for August revenue for the general and education trust funds was $99.7 million. The state took in over $110 million providing nearly $11 million of revenue over the budget plan. This more than makes up for the $4.5 million shortfall in July, the first month of the stateís new fiscal year, and has revenue for the year running over $6 million ahead of plan.
Although money in August is small compared to other months, it is still important, given the national economic and especially employment picture.
Analysts need to be cautious with their optimism. While business taxes look good, August results were just below revenue for the same month last year. There are many more business tax filings in September and it will be a much better measure of overall business activity.
Real estate transactions are an important indicator of the vitality of the economy. For the first two months of this fiscal year, revenue from the real estate transfer tax exceeds the budget plan by $2 million, $17.4 million of income vs. plan of $15.4 million. More importantly, that is $1 million ahead of last year when we were getting real estate tax income during the phase-out period of the First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit.
The restaurant business particularly, and the overall tourism industry generally, are important economic sectors in our stateís economy. The revenue from the meals and rentals tax is a good barometer of consumer spending in those areas. Overall revenue from this tax was $50.2 million for July and August or $1.7 million (3.5 percent) over last year. That is a very good sign.
Unfortunately, one of the hangovers from the bonding of school building aid in recent years is that a portion of the tax must be used to pay the interest and principal on those bonds. That amounts to $2.4 million in July and August that is not available for current state operations, reducing our meals and rentals usable revenue to $47.8 million.
Overall, revenues are holding their own against the very conservative estimates in the current budget. Those estimates were pretty wise as revenue so far this year is $6.4 million shy last yearís income, $195.6 million this year vs. $202 million last year.
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