By Christian Wade | The Center Square
Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire are pushing proposals to restrict student voting and tighten voter ID requirements while blocking attempts by Democrats to expand early voting and mail balloting.
One proposal, House Bill 362 which is currently being considered by the House Election Law Committee, would repeal a state law allowing students to use their address at a college or other educational institution for voting purposes.
Rep. Norman Silber, R-Gilford, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the state law allowing out-of-state college students to cast ballots disenfranchises other New Hampshire voters.
“Whenever we create a special class of people, a special favored class of individuals, it diminishes the rights of others,” Silber told the committee during a recent hearing on the bill. “Merely being a college student going to a school in New Hampshire shouldn’t be the basis for automatically being entitled to vote on New Hampshire matters.”
Another Republican-backed proposal, filed by Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, would eliminate a provision of state election law allowing voters to show a college identification card to receive a ballot. Proponents of House Bill 429 say many students who present those college IDs are nonresidents.
“We’re one of the very few states that allow students who are nonresidents to vote,” Baldasaro told the panel.
College students like Miles Brown, one of several to speak against the proposal during the committee hearing, said students are contributing members of the state who shouldn’t be deprived of the right to vote.
“Many of us work jobs, pay taxes and rent housing in this state,” Brown told the committee. “We are valued and contributing members of the community.”
Many students criticized the proposals as partisan attempts to disenfranchise young voters.
“This legislation is nothing more than a desperate attempt to concentrate political power and purge youth voters from participating in the democratic process,” Dow Drucker, a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, told the election law committee.
State law allows students who are temporarily living in the Granite State to claim residence and vote. New Hampshire has more college students per capita than any other state.
Students are a sizable chunk of the electorate that helped tip the state’s vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and to Joe Biden in the recent presidential election.
Ahead of the Nov. 3 election, the state’s Republican Party called on then-Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to declare that students from out of state who are studying remotely are not eligible to vote in the state.
The attorney general’s office declined the request, citing the state law that prevents local clerks from removing students who are established residents from the voter rolls.
The New Hampshire proposals are similar to GOP-led proposals in other state Legislatures that have been fueled, in part, by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 3 elections.
Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers have rejected several Democratic-backed bills to allow the permanent use of “no-excuse” absentee voting in New Hampshire elections.