CITIZEN VOICES® Car registration exception for students and other voters?

Feb 06, 2019

In 2018 New Hampshire passed a law that requires all voters to be legal residents of the state.  That means voters must register any cars in New Hampshire and get New Hampshire drivers’ licenses.

Sen. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline) is sponsoring a 2019 bill, SB 67, that would create an exception to that requirement for students and other temporary residents.

Voter residency requirement

Prior to 2018, New Hampshire had a special definition of “domicile” that allowed someone to vote in New Hampshire without following all the other residency laws.  Generally speaking, so long as someone lived in New Hampshire, they could vote in New Hampshire, but claim residency elsewhere for motor vehicles and tax purposes.  

HB 1264, passed in 2018, ended that special definition of domicile.  Now, if someone votes in New Hampshire, they must follow all residency laws. In particular, they must register any cars in New Hampshire and get a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days of voting.

Learn more about the voter residency requirement 

In 2019 the Legislature is considering a bill to restore that special definition of "domicile." 

Sen. Melanie Levesque has a different proposal: simply add an exception to motor vehicle laws for residents who don’t plan on staying in New Hampshire indefinitely.

An exception for car registration, licensing

SB 67, Levesque’s bill, states that any resident who expects to the leave the state in the future, “including military personnel, a student of any institution of learning, or a person employed for a fixed term,” is exempt from the residency requirements in New Hampshire’s motor vehicle laws.

In practice, this means out-of-state college students could register to vote in the same town as their dorm rooms, without having to also register their cars in-state.

Vermont has a similar exception to motor vehicle laws.

Arguments for, against an exception

Supporters of Levesque’s bill argue that car registration is not cheap and requiring voters to register cars amounts to a poll tax.  They note that there are many reasons why college students and other temporary residents may wish to keep a car registered out-of-state, even while New Hampshire is their home.  For example, a college student might be borrowing a car from an out-of-state parent.

Opponents of Levesque’s bill argue that college students and other people in New Hampshire temporarily should not have special privileges.  If they want to vote, they should pay the same fees as everyone else.

Opponents also note that college students and other temporary residents can still vote by absentee ballot from their home state.

Should some temporary residents - such as college students and military personnel - be exempt from the requirement to register their car here and get a NH driver's license but still be allowed to vote?


C. Wasserstrom
- Manchester

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 10:42pm

Total agreement.

Mark Holland
- Nashua

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 8:50pm

Temporary residents such as out of state students and military personnel stationed here should be exempt from any requirement to get New Hampshire driver’s licenses or register their cars in New Hampshire. Typically if a student from one state goes to school in another state but does not intend to stay in that state after graduation that person remains a resident of the state where they are from, not the state where they go to school. An out of state student who does not intend to become a permanent resident and remain in state after graduation should not be required to get a New Hampshire license or registration. Similarly, military personnel are allowed to choose and maintain a state of legal residence or domicile regardless of where they are stationed and most states already allow military personnel to keep their home state driver’s licenses when they PCS to a new location. Given that, New Hampshire should simply recognize a military person’s home state driver’s license and registration.

As much the same argument applies to voting rights, voting should be handled in a similar fashion. Non-resident students and military personnel should vote (by absentee ballot if necessary) in their home states, not in New Hampshire.

C. Wasserstrom
- Manchester

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 10:42pm



Related Bill

SB 67 (2019)
Bill Status: Vetoed by Governor
Hearing date: Apr 16, 2019

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