Last week, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a law that would prevent most out-of-state students from voting in the state.

The law implements residency requirements on college students who want to vote in New Hampshire. If out-of-state students wish to vote, they must declare residency in New Hampshire and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and vehicle registration within 60 days.

Out-of-state students are not the only citizens affected. The law also disenfranchises transient voters like military personnel, medical residents and visiting professors, among others. These citizens must now choose between voting via absentee ballots in their home states or declaring residency in New Hampshire.

The governor signed the bill into law one day after the New Hampshire Supreme Court found the bill constitutional. Gov. Sununu signed the law discreetly, without press, although student protesters waited outside his door.

Three of five justices on the New Hampshire Supreme Court said the bill did not violate the state Constitution, as the state has a compelling interest in assuring that people voting in New Hampshire elections are “bona fide residents.” The court ruled that the state constitution does not require students to have special voting status, and the legislature may ask transient voters to prove their commitment to the state by declaring residency.

“Gov. Sununu broke his word by signing this shameful attempt at partisan voter suppression into law, which is a giant step backward for our state and has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of Granite Staters,” New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan said.

Gov. Sununu had previously promised not to vote for any bills that would suppress the vote, going so far as to tell an activist, “I will never support anything that suppresses the student vote. End of story.”

New Hampshire’s law follows a Supreme Court decision upholding an Ohio voter suppression law that purged voters from its voter rolls after four years of inactivity. Populations of voters from predominantly poor black neighborhoods were purged from Ohio’s voter rolls in the greatest numbers. In that case, the conservative majority of Justices ignored arguments about the entrenched history of voter suppression among low-income and minority voters.

 

Media Resources: Governing 7/18/18; Slate 7/16/18; Feminist Newswire 6/18/18

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