Live Free (Elsewhere): New Hampshire Moves To Strip Voter Rolls of College Students

New Hampshire Rep. Gregory Sorg (R- Grafton County) is being accused of trying to prune the voter rolls of presumed liberal voters by barring college students from voting. His “Voters Attending Institutions of Learning” would tell students to vote back home.

The law would establish that “the domicile for voting purposes” of a college student would be the town or city “in which such person had his or her domicile immediately prior to matriculation … even though his or her intent to return thereto is uncertain.”

I have serious constitutional doubts over the viability of the law, particularly in terms of vagueness and equal protection. However, it is the motivation that is now being questioned after the release of comments by Speaker of the House William O’Brien (R-Hillsborough), who told a conservative group that college students registering to vote on Election Day “are basically doing what I did when I was a kid and foolish, voting as a liberal.”

Supporters, however, insist that college students increase the danger of voting fraud in the state.

The proposed law states in pertinent part:

654:2-b Voters Attending Institutions of Learning.

I. The domicile for voting purposes of a person attending an institution of learning shall be the state, or the town, city, ward, or unincorporated place in New Hampshire, in which such person had his or her domicile immediately prior to matriculation, even though such person may no longer reside in said state, town, city, ward, or unincorporated place, and even though his or her intent to return thereto is uncertain. The domicile for voting purposes of a person attending an institution of learning shall not be the place where the institution is located unless the person was domiciled in that place prior to matriculation.

So, even if the student does not reside in another state and has no plans to return to the earlier state, New Hampshire will refuse to recognize his or her domicile for purposes of voting? Matriculation is generally defined as “to be admitted into a group, especially a college or university.”

The problem with the bill is not the right of the state to define who is an eligible voter, but how they are going to disfranchise students who attest that they consider New Hampshire to be their home or do not intend to return home to their original state. In terms of equal protection, how are they going to handle military personnel who under federal law are allowed domestically. Presumably, they can continue to vote in New Hampshire despite not living in the state. How about missionaries and others living abroad? Those voters are guaranteed federal voting rights under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). They will be presumably allowed to vote in New Hampshire elections, but not students.

The denial of state voting to students could lead to complications for joint federal and state elections. It also could lead to challenges based on the 26th Amendment which was drafted in part to overturn Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970) where the Court found Congress could not compel states to register 18-year-old citizens in state and local elections.

While the federalism arguments behind this bill are compelling in many circumstances of voter regulation, this bill would use federalism principles to cut out voters and thereby dictate electoral results. It would effectively say that the voters of New Hampshire should decide such questions but we are not going to allow a significant number of prior voters to be heard on such questions.

It would bar these voters on highly speculative grounds to fighting voter fraud without a showing that such fraud is the direct result of college students voting or that such fraud can be avoided without disenfranchising young people.

Notably, while politicians are constantly complaining about young people not being involved in politics and voting, this bill would bar students from getting involved. They are much more likely to be motivated to vote in their college and university towns. I am astonished not to see any response from educational organizations in opposition to this proposal.

These legislators have a rather narrow view of the state motto. They may pledge to “Live Free and Die”, but it does not mean live here. However, if you die in New Hampshire, you will presumably be considered fully domiciled.

Source:  The New Hampshire and Reddit

Jonathan Turley

55 thoughts on “Live Free (Elsewhere): New Hampshire Moves To Strip Voter Rolls of College Students”

  1. “Dismantle the public schools system. Take care of your own kids. Stop shirking your responsibility. If you cannot afford to have kids stop making them.”

    The public schools system was established in the 1840s and was a point of national pride. Now you want to gut the public schools because you’ve gutted them so far already that you think they suck and should be gutted more. As fewer and fewer taxes support the public school system, thanks to you, its quality naturally deteriorates down to your shitty, contemptible expectations of what it should be as a public sector institution. Teachers at public schools in the U.S. garner zero respect culturally and are paid like airline pilots; there are better jobs at McDonalds.

  2. So, what if the NH student goes back to his or her “home town” and the voter registration people won’t recognize the student as a resident for voting purposes? Doesn’t that disenfranchise the student?

    Tootie-I spent 2 years living in Chicago when I did my AM. I wasn’t a “visitor.” I lived in Chicago and had no intention to go back to WI, my “home state.”

  3. Blouise,
    Thanks! That was also a wonderful story about your daughter. You are correct about remembering their names. My wife and I were in Madrid a few years back to visit our youngest daughter who was studying there and as we walked down our hotel hallway, a young American girl came out and helped my wife with her suitcase and we talked for a minute or two and she commented that my wife had taught her middle school science back in Illinois several years earlier. My wife remembered her name and what her science project was all about. I was shocked and my wife was flattered that her student from years prior had remembered her. It was a crazy chance meeting far from home, but one my wife will never forget.

  4. rafflaw,

    What a marvelous tribute you gave to that special teacher.

    When my youngest daughter was a Sophomore/Junior in High School, she was inducted into the National Honor Society and told she could bring one teacher to the ceremony. Her fellow inductees, as had every inductee before her, brought one of their High School teachers. She invited her fourth grade teacher … the first time in the history of the School system that an elementary teacher had been so honored. In fact, the teacher thought a mistake had been made when she received the invitation and called me so that the error could be corrected. She was literally speechless when I told her that it was not an error.

    The invited teacher is introduced by his/her student and a short speech is given as to why the student chose this teacher. When my daughter rose to make her introduction there was a quiet commotion at the back of the banquet room. I turned to look and saw the entire staff of her elementary school, principal, teachers, secretary, school nurse and janitor filing in and standing quietly at the back of the room. The speech was beautiful and there was not a dry eye in the place. Since that time it is now common to see an elementary, middle or junior high school teacher honored in such a manner.

    My daughter has probably forgotten the name of who won the World Series, or the Acadamy Award, or the Olympic Medal, or the Nobel Peace prize in literature but she will never forget the name of that teacher.

  5. Stamford,
    Thanks. It was a story that gave me confidence that I was lacking before I met with the speech teacher.
    I agree with your take on Quintus Arius’ posting. It reminds me of the 60’s and early 70’s when you could get drafted and die for your country, but you couldn’t vote to change the policy that put you in a war that you didn’t want to be part of.

  6. Quintus Arius, thanks for your posting. It’s a thorny question and a state, whatever its position on the issue may be, should at least have a consistent legal approach to the the matter.

  7. So.. how does this New Federalism actually work ? If the state of New Hampshire, or any other state, declares one a resident for purposes of taxation, should they not also consider one a resident for voting in all elections, local as well as national.

    PDF] NEW HAMPSHIREFile Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    Guide to State Residency Requirements: Policy and Practice at U.S. … The following information was provided by Keene State College and the … the parent subsequently establishes domicile outside of New Hampshire, the student shall be …

    Evidence of Domicile, Including but not Limited to: In determining if domicile exists, the following evidence is considered – payment/non-payment of any tax levied by the state on its residents; residence reported on any Federal/state tax returns; state of automobile registration; state issuing driver’s license; support in whole or in part from out-of-state parents; state of voter registration; claim by any nonresident parent that the applicant is a dependent; regular departure from New Hampshire during school recesses or vacations; filing of any claims for benefits under any insurance policy or legislation based on residence or domicile outside of New Hampshire; status in some other state which would qualify a person for in-state tuition in that state.

    This is an unusually contentious issue in well known high tax
    jurisdictions such as New York city, where a recent case that turned on the presence of the petitioner on the 184thth day would have meant a potential tax liability of $28 Million.

    If the mayor or congressman wants your money, one should be able to vote in his city or district

    Aftr all… it is how this country was founded, over that
    little taxation without representation dispute.

  8. eniobob:

    ‘The Dumbing Down of America’

    Excellent article and thank you for sharing. Scary, isn’t it?



    Thank YOU for sharing your story. It’s great!! Sadly in today’s world, teachers like your speech teacher aren’t lauded enough. Everyone’s too busy pointing out what’s wrong with teachers as opposed to what’s right.


    Elaine M:


  9. Our Governor never ceases to amaze:

    Education picks reflect Christie’s voucher goals
    Tuesday, February 1, 2011
    The Record
    display story on 1 page Page 1 2 >>

    Governor Christie’s four appointments to the state Board of Education reflect his ongoing push to remake New Jersey schools.

    One has been a major donor to pro-voucher groups, one helped start a Brooklyn charter school and one is a prominent developer who says he’ll bring savvy from the business world, where getting results is a matter of “life or death.” Each served on the boards of their children’s private schools and contributed to Christie’s campaign or inauguration.

  10. Lottakatz
    1, January 31, 2011 at 11:25 pm
    Absentee ballots are easy to use.


    And easy to obtain … local Boards of Election bend over backwards to get those ballots out to students who are at schools out of state

  11. Stamford Liberal,

    “Those that decry efforts to aid people in getting out of the vicious cycle see that portion of society as lazy, ungrateful and undeserving.”

    It’s their excuse for not wanting to help those who are poor. Gotta have a reason to ignore those people and their problems. Then they can have a clear conscience because those lazy folks just want to suck off the system. Of course, there’s no such thing as the “working poor.”

  12. Tootie,
    With all due respect, dismantling the public education system is a ridiculous idea. We are an exceptional nation and I hope John Boehner sees that we said that. We got to be an exceptional nation because of our education process. How many NASA scientists were educated at public schools in their towns? How many doctors and ministers and yes, even lawyers were well taught in the public school system? Too many to count.
    You have heard of Dr. Jonas Salk who discovered the Polio vaccine and saved millions of children here in the States and around the world from agony and death or a lifetime in braces or worse. How did he get his start? In public schools in New York. People have the freedom to go to private schools if they can afford it, but the public education system is sound. It is not perfect, but it is sound and effective. Just ask any teacher. Just ask a student whose life was changed, improved and altered for the better because of their teacher. I know my life was altered for the better by my High School speech teacher who convinced a hyper kid with a lisp that he could become a lawyer and not be afraid to speak in public. She was right about me when others told me to become a gym teacher or to skip college all together or just laughed as I spit out my words. I am sure glad I met her and that she saw something in me that maybe I didn’t even recognize. Thank God she believed in me at Niles Community High School East in Skokie, Illinois. I just wish the school was still open so that I could visit the halls one more time. If you saw the old movie, “16 Candles” by John Hughes you saw Niles East. A lot of the school scenes were filmed there after it had closed. I guess I got off track a bit, but I could not stand by and let your derogatory comment about the public school system to go unchallenged. Time to get off my soapbox now.

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