The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to protect the civil liberties guaranteed to all Granite Staters by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
New Hampshire's 2024 legislative session is officially underway. Each year, the ACLU of New Hampshire reviews over 1,200 bills introduced in the New Hampshire Legislature for civil liberties implications, identifying those bills that we are going to advocate for or against and developing strategies accordingly.
Invest in Communities and People: All New Hampshire residents should ensure basic needs and provide life affirming services, including a living wage; safe, decent, and sanitary housing; adequate nutrition; comprehensive health care and mental health services; and a high-quality education.
- Protect Access to Safe, Legal Abortion: Without Roe, Legislators must support legislation that would enshrine abortion rights into New Hampshire’s Constitution. This legislation would ensure that, regardless of what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion will remain safe, legal, and accessible in the Granite State.
- Expand New Hampshire’s Harm Reduction Strategy: Lawmakers must provide additional evidence-based harm reduction tools, including expanded drug testing, to save lives and reduce harm.
- Prevent the Government from Controlling Private Healthcare Decisions: Legislators must oppose efforts to prohibit abortions at just 15 days of pregnancy. Make no mistake, this is intended to ban abortion in New Hampshire.
- Protect the Safety of LGBTQ+ Students: Legislators must oppose efforts to interfere with the ability of school staff to do their job, including attempts to require school staff “out” a transgender student to their parents, potentially before the student is ready to share or who may face an unsafe home environment.
- Maintain the Prohibition of Conversion Therapy: Legislators must maintain the ban on conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy has been debunked by every major medical association in the country. Studies show that LGBTQ+ people who are exposed to conversion therapy are a shocking 92 percent more likely to attempt suicide.
- Support Transgender People in Our Communities: Legislators must oppose efforts to ban trans athletes from participating in athletic activities or ban the use of the bathroom consistent with their gender, along with any effort to use “biological sex” (an undefined term) to dictate key aspects of how transgender and people relate to the world. Bans like these pose safety risks on transgender people, violate NH’s nondiscrimination laws, and only function to further stigmatize a vulnerable population.
- Prevent Restrictions on Medical Care for Transgender People: Lawmakers must oppose legislation that would prohibit transgender people from receiving essential medical care. Every reputable medical association endorses gender-affirming medical care because scientific research shows it is effective and can be essential to the health and well-being of transgender people. Passage of such a policy could also negatively impact recruitment and retention of highly qualified medical professionals who would not want to live and work in a state that prohibits necessary medical care and puts them at risk of criminalization for doing their jobs.
Take Affirmative Steps to Confront Racism, Bigotry, and Exploitation: From colonization and slavery, though modern racist and exploitative policies that include regressive taxation, redlining, and voter suppression, the United States has systematically exploited and denied the basic human rights of Black people. And, while Black people have faced the brunt of these injustices, poor white and other marginalized people are harmed too. New Hampshire must help dismantle this racist and exploitative foundation and prioritize investments in its communities that have been directly harmed and under-resourced by this legacy.
- Teach Children the Full Picture of American History: Legislators must repeal the “Banned Concepts” law that unconstitutionally chills New Hampshire teachers from covering how America’s legacy of racism and slavery impacts today’s society and students of color.
- Further Limit Full Picture of U.S. History: Legislators must oppose any additional legislative attempts to engage in classroom censorship. We are better as a state and community when we can have hard conversations and learn from them—which is why it’s so important that our students get a full picture of America’s history and its impact on today’s society.
- Protect Welcoming Communities: Legislators must not take away the power of local communities to decide whether they want their local law enforcement to do the job of the federal government in enforcing federal immigration laws.
Prioritize Public Safety: Implement harm reduction strategies in response to community issues, including substance use disorders, homelessness, and mental illness, and rein in other abusive police strategies.
- End New Hampshire’s War on Marijuana: Legislators must legalize the possession of marijuana by adults with racial equity at the foundation of this reform. New Hampshire’s marijuana laws needlessly ensnare thousands of people -- disproportionately Black people - - in its criminal justice system every year. This does not make us safe, wastes taxpayer dollars, and it ruins lives. Legislators must also ensure that individuals with previous marijuana convictions have an automatic and cost-free process for annulling their records.
- Defelonize the Possession of Drugs: Legislators must stop saddling thousands of people -- disproportionately Black people - - with felony records each year for possession of controlled drugs.
- Rein in the Harmful Northern Border Alliance Program: Legislators must transition the $1.4 million appropriated for the “Northern Border Alliance Program” from non-lapsing to lapsing funds and ensure robust reporting of how the program funds are used when appropriated. The stated goal of this program is to address an increase in unauthorized border crossings, but the Governor’s office and Department of Safety have been unable to show any evidence that unauthorized crossings are happening, let alone increasing at near the New Hampshire/Canada border. This money would be much better spent on the actual, documented needs of North Country residents, including housing, expanded broadband access, substance use treatment, and jobs that pay a living wage.
Ensure Police Are Accountable: Hold police accountable when they abuse their power, including rolling back police immunity protections, requiring standardized data collection, and strengthening open government laws.
- End Racial Profiling: Black and Brown people are arrested and incarcerated at staggering rates compared with white people in New Hampshire. Legislators must use all tools available to stop this and ending racial profiling by law enforcement is a basic first step.
End Policing for Profit: Focus police on the fair administration of justice, not collecting revenue or meeting quotas, including eliminating civil asset forfeiture, prohibiting expenditures beyond what is explicitly allocated to the department via the budgeting process.
- Rein in Policing for Profit – Legislators must continue to move toward the elimination of civil asset forfeiture, including by eliminating loopholes that allow state and local law enforcement agencies use of federal forfeiture laws that permit law enforcement to take and keep your property without even charging you with a crime.
Eliminate Inhumane and Counterproductive Punishment: Eliminate the inhumane, unnecessary, and expensive incarceration of people in jails and prisons, including by ending parole, repealing mandatory minimum laws, ending cruel and unusual conditions of confinement, and prioritizing non-carceral approaches to public safety, including restorative and transformative justice.
- Parole Reform/Sentencing Reform: Legislators must expand behavioral based incentives for incarcerated and paroled individuals to take control of their lives, consciously pursue a rehabilitative pathway, and have the best chance of success upon and after their reentry to our communities.
- Stop Prison Expansion: Granite Staters cannot afford the costs of building a new prison nor should we place the economic burden on our community members when data shows a consistent decline in the state’s prison population. It is not only financial irresponsibility to build a new prison, but historically speaking, the construction of new prison facilities always contributes to mass incarceration as a new prison means more cells that must be filled.
End Two-Tiered Justice: Ensure that guilt and punishment are determined by facts rather than the wealth of the defendant.
- Strengthen Bail Reform: Legislators must strengthen New Hampshire’s existing bail system by creating a real time bail system. Unlike some bail proposals that rely on a one-size-fits-all approach, which would lead to the needless, mandatory incarceration of thousands of Granite Staters each year, this is a targeted approach to ensure that judges and bail commissioners have accurate and current information when making bail decision.
- Don’t Roll Back Reforms to New Hampshire’s Bail System: Legislators must oppose efforts to revert to a bail system that needlessly incarcerated of thousands of Granite Staters at a staggering financial cost to taxpayers. This legislation is based in fear, not evidence. In fact, crime rates in NH have decreased over 18 percent since the implementation of bail reform. Current law already allows a judge to detain individuals pretrial if they are a flight risk or danger to the community and judges should retain that discretion.
- No Excuse Absentee Voting - No excuse absentee would allow any voter to cast an absentee ballot instead of voting on election day if they chose to by allowing voters to securely and safely vote by absentee ballot. Under the expanded absentee voting rules in 2020, New Hampshire had its highest general election turnout in state history. Absentee voting is also nonpartisan – according to the Institute for Responsive Government, research has shown that neither party gains an advantage when absentee voting is expanded.
- Eliminating Affidavits: Currently, when registering to vote, voters are asked for proof of identity, age, domicile, and citizenship. If they are registering and lack documentation for age, domicile, and citizenship, they are able to sign an affidavit, then register and cast a ballot. Legislation that would remove the ability for those registering to vote to sign an affidavit if they don’t have physical proof of identity, age, citizenship, or domicile (address) would suppress voters and could cost any voter their right to register and vote in an election. The current system uses affidavits – a powerful legal document with serious consequences – that has shown to be safe an secure time and again.
Bring voter registration into the 21st century: the ACLU of NH advocates for reforms that have been demonstrated to be extremely effective at making sure that all Americans who want to cast a ballot are able to do so. New Hampshire should support state-level efforts that would expand access to the polls including expanding early voting, online voter registration, and same-day voter registration.
- Accessible Voting Devices: New Hampshire has accessible voting equipment for federal elections but NOT for local elections. We support requiring the state to make sure each polling location has an accessible device for all elections. One New Hampshire municipality has already been sued for not having an accessible device during its local election. Continuing to not provide these devices leaves every local municipality open to lawsuit. Repeatedly having elections where certain voters are not able to cast a secret ballot is bad for democracy and is just wrong. Our democracy is strongest when all voters cast a ballot.