Familiar Fight: Disputes (Again) Over Student Voting in New Hampshire

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Few states in the nation have done more to litigate the issue of student voting than New Hampshire – and it appears the fight is on again after a request to the Attorney General to limit absentee voting by students attending college remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Concord Monitor has more:

The New Hampshire Republican Party this week asked the state Attorney General’s Office to inform city and town clerks not to allow college students from out-of-state who are taking classes remotely at New Hampshire based schools to use their former school addresses when registering to vote or requesting absentee ballots.

“Students who do not live here and have no residence here at the time of the election are not qualified voters,” N.H. GOP attorney Sean R. List wrote in a letter to Attorney General Gordon MacDonald. List argued that college students at New Hampshire institutions who are currently taking classes remotely from outside the state amid the coronavirus pandemic may “no longer claim domicile in New Hampshire for voting purposes.”

The issue of domicile is set in state law, but the parties disagree on if and how it applies to students:

State laws allow students from out-of-state who are attending colleges or universities in the Granite State to claim their school address as their legal “domicile for voting purposes.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is charging that the move is intended to suppress their votes.

“If you are a U.S. citizen, will be 18 years of age or older by Election Day, and your home is in New Hampshire – even if you are temporarily absent – you can vote in New Hampshire,” New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesperson Holly Shulman wrote in a statement. “These rules apply to all Granite Staters, including college students.”

Republicans are maintaining their insistence that a formal address in the state is a requirement:

While the state Republican Party argues that “out-of-state students learning remotely at the time of the election who have no New Hampshire residence are precluded from both in-person and absentee voting in New Hampshire,” they do acknowledge that students who are temporarily absent from New Hampshire but keep a residential address and domicile in the state are allowed to legally vote by absentee ballot.

Not surprisingly, youth voting activists criticized the call to restrict student absentee ballots:

NextGen, the largest progressive grassroots youth advocacy group in the nation, joined New Hampshire Democrats in criticizing the move by state Republicans.

“This is a ridiculous distraction to scare and confuse young voters at the last minute. The GOP has mishandled COVID, forcing students to uproot their lives and educations, and now is trying to sow confusion in an attempt to suppress their voices when it matters most,” NextGen New Hampshire state director Emma Tyler said.

For now it’s just a letter and the typical partisan posturing , and perhaps there won’t be more formal moves to limit student voting, but this latest controversy is absentee voting by students is still a point of contention in the Live Free or Die State. Here’s hoping it doesn’t create problems for voters or election clerks in the two-week run-up to Election Day. Stay tuned …

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