New Hampshire Republicans Wage War on Student Voting Rights

Several proposed bills would make it harder for tens of thousands of students in the state to cast their ballots.

Jim Cole/AP

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New Hampshire has more college students per capita than any other state. Some 167,705 students, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center—spread among the University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, Keene State, and others—make up about 12 percent of the state’s overall population. But, in an effort that could suppress that young, left-leaning voting bloc, Republican lawmakers have introduced a series of bills in the state legislature that would make it harder for students to cast their ballots.

After Republicans took control of the state’s legislature in 2020, House lawmakers introduced three bills restricting student voting: HB 554, HB 362, and HB 429. HB 554 prevents people from voting in New Hampshire if they maintained a domicile address in another state; HB 362 forbids students from registering to vote at their college address; and HB 429 prohibits the use of a college ID as a voter ID.

The rationale for disallowing students from voting in the state where they go to school is about as nonsensical as you’d expect. Ensuring the rights of college students to vote “diminishes the rights of all the rest of our citizens,” says Republican state Rep. Normal Silber. “Why don’t we have a special provision that says blue-eyed people get a special right to vote?”

While most of the bills are straightforward attempts at preventing out-of-state students from casting ballots in the state where they may spend nine months of the year, HB 429 provides for any student registered to vote in New Hampshire to pay in-state tuition at public universities and community colleges. “We believe that it’s kind of an underhanded way of suppressing the vote,” Alex Leichenger, a strategic communications manager at the progressive nonprofit NexGen America, told me, “because then colleges are not necessarily going to want to offer in state tuition to everyone, and then aren’t going to be as active, potentially, about encouraging people to vote on their campuses.”

The fate of the bills remains uncertain, but one thing is clear: The state will not permit permanent no-excuse absentee voting anytime soon. The House Election Law Committee voted along party lines yesterday to tell the full House to kill the Democratic-sponsored legislation.

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