Students face greater obstacles when heading to the polls this year

Amadou Bah, Crier staff

House Bill 1264 (HB 1264) was signed into law by Governor Chris Sununu (R), on July 13, 2018, despite the controversy that surrounded its potential enactment. The New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) and the public officials that operate under its banner have vocalized their opposition to the bill.

Democrats believe that the bill’s purpose is to suppress the vote of progressive college students. Every member of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation has voiced their opposition to HB 1264. Leading Congressional candidate Chris Pappas (D), and Gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly (D), have also voiced opposition to this bill upon fears of voter suppression.

Governor Sununu, who was initially unsure of the constitutionality of the bill ordered that the bill’s constitutionality be reviewed by the state’s supreme court. The bill was ruled constitutional by a 3-2 split. Governor Sununu made a public statement that praised HB 1264 because it “restores equality and fairness to our elections.” Governor Sununu made this statement in reference to the fact that prior to HB 1264, New Hampshire was the only state without clearly defined residency requirements.

Prior to HB 1264, the election laws differentiated between voters who were “domiciled” and those who “reside” in the state of New Hampshire. This allowed those domiciled in New Hampshire to vote in the state’s local and federal elections, even if they had no intention of taking further action to become residents. It isn’t difficult to understand why this might be considered an issue to full-time residents of the state, who must accept the will of its legislators on the basis of equal democracy. HB 1264 in no way prevents out-of-state college students from voting in New Hampshire; what HB 1264 does do is require that domiciled voters commit to being residents of New Hampshire through their actions if they choose to vote in New Hampshire.

Out-of-state students are welcome to vote in New Hampshire’s local and federal elections as long as they commit to doing things that every resident of NH must do to prove residency: Get an NH drivers license, registering their vehicles in the state, etc.

When asked about her initial thoughts on HB 1264, junior politics major Emily Provencher stated, “The goal is to prevent young progressives from voting.” She also makes the compelling argument that because she spends most of her time in New Hampshire, she should have the right to vote in the state’s elections.

Senior politics major Madison Mangels expressed similar concerns. Madison was disappointed by Governor Sununu’s decision to sign HB 1264 because of the vocal promise he had made to never suppress the vote of college students. In Madison’s own words, HB 1264 is “100% voter suppression.” Madison doubled down on this belief by claiming “Groups like Let America Vote, and New Hampshire Youth Movement, and students in this school will tell you the same.”

New Hampshire’s Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan agreed to comment and be quoted for this news edition. It is only fair to note that New Hampshire’s Secretary of State is voted in by the New Hampshire General Court (State House) biannually. The New Hampshire General Court is currently controlled by Republicans. When asked what the purpose of the bill was, Deputy Secretary Scanlan responded, “It clears up the confusing issue that exists between the term domicile and residence.

This confusion led a judge to rule that you do not have to be a resident of New Hampshire in order to vote in New Hampshire.” Deputy Secretary Scanlan also noted that the office supported the bill “In order to align ourselves with 49 other states.” In Deputy Secretary Scanlan’s opinion, “The debate on this particular issue is politically charged.”

To the naked eye, HB 1264 is quite logical, and if anything, a little past due. When trying to understand why certain legislation is passed, it is important to remember that it is simply impossible to remove the politics from politics. Some things need to be made transparent in order to fully understand the reason why each party views the issue, the way it does.

President Donald Trump has alleged that in the 2018 Presidential Election, voters from Massachusetts were bussed over to N.H. in order to swing New Hampshire in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This is a baseless claim. It could be assumed that the President chose to call out New Hampshire because the state lacks a residency requirement for its voters. Despite the fact that the President’s claims of widespread voter fraud lack any form of evidence to back it up, Governor Sununu has a vested interest in appeasing President Trump and his base.

By signing HB 1264, Governor Sununu has expressed to the President with the swipe of his pen that he has heard the President’s concerns and has properly rectified it through legislative action. When in reality, Governor Sununu knows that the bill simply requires voters who vote in New Hampshire’s elections to either be residents, or to commit to pursuing residency through their actions after voting. It is not some unique way of combating the voter fraud that the President claims to have tainted his numbers in the popular vote. In fact, if out-of-college students chose to do so, they could follow through on these new residency requirements and turnout in New Hampshire in greater numbers than ever before. In which case, New Hampshire would stand to gain because of the influx of young citizens.

It is also fair to note that the Republican-controlled New Hampshire General Court also stands to gain by the passage of HB 1264. If out-of-state college students must commit to living in New Hampshire and proving their residency to vote, then it can be reasonably assumed they will be less likely to vote in New Hampshire’s elections as opposed to their own. Because of this, it must be stated plainly that Democrats in New Hampshire have a lot to lose by the passage of HB 1264.

Heading into a pivotal midterm election, Democrats have a lot gain by claiming that HB 1264 has a nefarious intent like voter suppression. This is one more stain Democrats can put on Republicans heading into a midterm that will seemingly be a blue wave.

If Democrats can continue to convince people that HB 1264 is a bill with the hidden intent to suppress the college vote, then they will be justified in repealing it if they win the General Court and Governorship here in New Hampshire.