Posted by 10 August 2018
College students who come to New Hampshire from other states will now find it a little more difficult to vote. Under new legislation, they must become state residents if they want to cast a ballot in New Hampshire. Proponents say this will restore integrity in the state’s voting process, while opponents liken this new requirement to a poll tax.
There has long been concern in New Hampshire over the votes of out-of-state college students. In 1972, a federal court invalidated a New Hampshire law that only allowed college students to vote if they intended to stay in the state. That court said that the Constitution protected someone’s right to vote where they lived. In 2015, the state Supreme Court overruled another law that told potential voters that they could register only if they intended to live in the state indefinitely.
During that time, the standard for voting in New Hampshire depended on whether you domiciled in the state, which is defined as living in New Hampshire more than any other state. Under the law recently signed by Governor Chris Sununu, now someone must establish residency in New Hampshire in order to register to vote. That residency process involves obtaining a state driver’s license and registering one’s car in New Hampshire (which means paying a state fee).
Because of constitutional concerns over the law, legislators asked the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on its legality. By a 3-2 vote, the court issued an opinion that the new laws was legal under the state’s constitution.
The legislators who backed this law say that it is necessary to prevent out-of-state students who aren’t state residents from influencing New Hampshire’s elections. Opponents say that since establishing residency would trigger state fees, this amounts to a poll tax that is illegal under the U.S. Constitution. They say that this is an attempt to squelch the votes of liberal-leaning college voters.
Once this measure goes into effect, there will likely be a court case challenging its legality.
Do you think that New Hampshire is right to make students establish residency in order to vote in the state?