In 1966, in a case captioned, Harper vs. Virginia Board of Elections, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s poll tax was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. Under the law that was struck down, persons who were not current on the poll tax were not allowed to vote.
This case essentially applied the 24th Amendment (ratified in 1964), which provides as follows, to State elections:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
In other words, as a matter of constitutional law a poll tax is a law that conditions voting upon payment of some tax, fine or fee.
The Democrats and their allies such as the ACLU are claiming that HB 372 would impose a “poll tax.” For example:The problem with the poll tax argument is that HB 372 does not require the payment of any tax or fee or fine to vote. Even if you failed to pay your property taxes, or failed to register your car, or hunted without a license or ran a toll booth on the way to the polling place, you still get to vote. So it’s inaccurate and misleading to claim that HB 372 is a poll tax.
That’s why Snowflake Janowski (above) characterizes HB 372 as a post-election poll tax. But that characterization is just as inaccurate and misleading. HB 372 does not involve any post-election check on whether voters are current on their taxes, fines and fees, and then negate the votes of those who are delinquent. The votes of tax-scofflaws, toll-booth runners and poachers stand.
While the opponents of HB 372 have not explained their poll tax claim, presumably the explanation would go something like this: HB 372 restricts voting to bona fide residents of New Hampshire, residents of New Hampshire have to register their cars in New Hampshire, therefore in order to qualify to vote in New Hampshire I have to pay to register my car in New Hampshire and paying to register my car is the equivalent of paying a poll tax.
The problem with this syllogism, as noted above, is that HB 372 does not turn anyone away from the voting booth for failure to register his or her car, or pay any tax, fee or fine. Nor does it require anyone to pay any tax, fee or fine within a certain number of days of voting in order to have his or her vote count.
What the opponents of HB 372 are really worried about is that HB 372 will close the drive-by loophole under which persons who are not bona fide residents of New Hampshire are allowed to vote in New Hampshire. For example:So even though these college students do not consider New Hampshire their home, they want to be entitled to vote in New Hampshire.
In other words, the opponents of HB 372 want drive-by voting —voting by persons who are not bona fide residents of New Hampshire— to remain legal. They want out-of-State college students, and other drive-by voters, to have a special legal status under which they get to choose whether to vote in New Hampshire or their home States on an election by election basis.
(Actually, as I discussed here there is substantial evidence that Hassan actually lost the election despite the drive-by college vote. More specifically, 1,094 likely drive-by votes beyond the votes of out-of-State college students have been identified, which in and of itself exceeds Hassan’s margin of victory.)
Given the stakes, it’s a certainty that the Democrats and their allies will sue if HB 372 if amended by the State Senate election law committee is passed:
As I discuss here, I think the Senate amendment will not do what it is intended to do and additional work is needed to close the drive-by loophole.