NH Judge Blocks Voter Registration Law

While the Justice Department’s recent approval of New Hampshire’s new voter ID law has certainly led many at Dartmouth and throughout the state to cry foul, a judge’s recent ruling on another controversial piece of election-related legislation is actually cause for concern.

This past Monday, Stafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled in favor of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and four individuals represented by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union who argued that the state’s updated voter registration law prevented out-of-state students from voting in New Hampshire in the upcoming elections.

What Get Out The Vote campaigns have forgotten about.

Seen by some as an attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise college students, one of President Obama’s most loyal support groups, this law, passed in June over Governor John Lynch’s veto, required prospective voters to declare New Hampshire as their domicile, forcing them to register their cars through the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles and obtain New Hampshire driver’s licenses.

With his decision, Judge Lewis reaffirmed that college students, regardless of their state of permanent residency, will be able vote in New Hampshire come November. This ruling was met with opposition from many Republicans, including House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who suggested that allowing out-of-state students to vote in New Hampshire invalidates that right of bona fide residents.

“Merely being in New Hampshire does not give a person a right to vote,” he said. “One must intend to stay for at least an indefinite period and when you do you can vote and will become a resident.” 

O’Brien has a point. Why should I, a permanent resident of New York who will have been “living” in New Hampshire for a mere nine weeks come Election Day, be permitted to vote here? Granted, the thought of casting my ballot in such an influential swing-state is exciting, especially when considering that my home state will undoubtedly go to Obama. But is it my right? I don’t believe so. An honor and privilege? Absolutely. 

–Caroline Sohr