The New Hampshire State House is currently considering several bills that would impact voting and election laws in the state. Students, along with many others, would be highly affected by these new bills if they were to be passed.
A Republican-led state house has put forward more than 40 new election bills that will be voted upon in the upcoming months. David Bates, a Republican state representative from Windham, has been the guiding force behind most of these bills that oppose such voting. Election officials in New Hampshire have repeatedly said that there is no widespread voter fraud in the state, according to NHPR.
The definition of domicile would be changed under these laws, meaning that those who do not plan to stay in the state on a relitivaly permanent-basis would no longer be allowed to vote. With these laws in place, out-of-state students would no longer be allowed to vote.
Other proposed bills look to make voting more technologically advanced, by having online registration and electronic poll books in a few communities around the state, which gained bipartisan support in the last legislative session, as reported by NHPR. These election bills are still in committee, meaning that they are still under consideration.
Michael Verney, a UNH graduate student and a lecturer in history through the UNH Navitas program, organized a rally in Concord this past weekend in opposition to these new bills. Verney said that Senate Bill 3 will have a particular impact on out-of-state students as they will no longer be able to claim New Hampshire as their domicile and thus will lose their right to vote in the state. Verney also mentioned that military personnel who are temporarily living here will not be able to vote either and said that he found that “offensive.”
“As a teacher, as a graduate student here, as someone who continues to have a lot of friends here, I am really concerned about their right to vote—which I view to be a human right,” Verney said.In particular, the other side says that they (out-of-state students) can do an absentee ballot, but the problem with that, to me, is that they are truly living here and students can be here for two to seven years. They are mostly here. They are governed by the laws made… in Concord.”
Republican State Senator Dan Innis said he supports these bills. In the last election, thousands of voters signed affidavits saying they lived in New Hampshire, and Innis said thousands of those affidavits came back without an address.
He said that Senate Bill 3 will eliminate voting in New Hampshire by non-residents of the state and by those who don’t intend to be residents upon completing whatever they came to the state to do.
Innis said that out-of-state students can get an absentee ballot and vote in their own state and town. Arguing against Democrats and others who say this will suppress voting rights, Innis said that getting an absentee ballot is easier than going to a polling place.
“It only restricts voters if they’re too lazy to get an absentee ballot. If they follow the rules, everyone and anyone can vote,” Innis said.
Sophomore journalism major and president of UNH College Democrats, Olivia Olbrych, said she believes the new voter restrictions would not be good for the state.
“A lot of young people are leaving the state, so some Republicans are opposing the bills because they know that suppressing young voters and student voters is not going to encourage them to come to the state,” Olbrych said. “That’s bad for the economy… Legislators like [Governor] Chris Sununu keep putting forward bills that have a big negative impact on students and young people.”
There will be a public hearing on Senate Bill 3 on March 7 in the New Hampshire Legislation Office Building in Concord.