CITIZEN VOICES® Repeal new voter residency law?
Jan 11, 2019
In 2018 Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 1264, a bill that requires voters in New Hampshire to declare legal residency. Legal residency includes registering any cars in New Hampshire, getting a New Hampshire driver’s license, etc.
Prior to that change, voters only had to declare “domicile” in New Hampshire. Speaking very generally, citizens could vote in whatever town they called home, regardless of their legal residency according to DMV records or tax purposes.
More about the voter residency requirement
Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 1264 after three of the five state Supreme Court justices gave their opinion that the bill was constitutional. However, that opinion was only advisory, and voters may still bring a lawsuit after HB 1264 goes into effect the summer of 2019.
When HB 1264 goes into effect, voters will not be turned away at the polls just because they aren’t legal residents – but they will only have 60 days after voting to register any car in New Hampshire and get a New Hampshire license.
Arguments to lift the legal residency requirement
Supporters of HB 106, the 2019 bill to repeal the residency requirement, argue that requiring voters to declare legal residency is equivalent to a poll tax, since there are fees to register a car and get a driver’s license.
College students rallied against the residency requirement because so many have cars registered in other towns and cities, even while they consider their college campus their home. They argue the legal residency requirement will be an unfair burden on them and other voters that may choose to keep car registrations and legal residences in other states, for any number of reasons.
Arguments to require legal residency
Opponents of HB 106 point out that every other state requires voters to declare legal residency.
They argue the new voter residency requirements may be inconvenient for some college students, but in no way deprive college students of the right to vote, either in New Hampshire or another state by absentee ballot. Instead, the new requirements ensure all voters in New Hampshire have the same legal commitment to the Granite State.
Should NH repeal the new law that requires voters to declare legal residency in NH (which includes, for example, registering any cars in NH)?
Discussion held on Citizens Count website and Facebook page January 5, 2019
What Participants Said
No: 204 people were opposed to repealing the new law that requires voters to declare legal residency in NH.
- “Non-resident students should vote in their home state via absentee ballot. If they chose to LIVE here permanently then they register and vote like the rest of us.”
- “If NH is your home away from home than [sic] call home and get an absentee ballot. If NH is truly your home, proving it should not be particularly difficult to do. This law does not prohibit anyone from voting.”
- “If this isn’t your primary residence, you shouldn’t be able to determine our fate as a state.”
Yes: 17 people were in favor of repealing the new law that requires voters to declare legal residency in NH.
- “It creates needless confusion and could be used to deter not only college students who only live in NH for four years, but also seasonal residents (such as ‘snowbirds’), homeless vets, military personnel stationed in NH, and others. Supporters of democracy should encourage voting and other forms of civic engagement, not fear them.”
- “Absolutely. College kids who live here most of the year have a stake in local politics and should have a say in them.”
- “This is really a poll tax and should be overturned.”
Other: 26 citizens addressed their comments to related questions and issues.
- Political correctness: “This country is headed in a direction that is more worried about offending someone than having logical sense.”
- Confusion over the bill’s application: “I live here pay taxes here but don’t have a NH license, should I not be able to vote here?”
- Logistics of the bill: “And if they declare residency, vote in the NH election, and then FAIL to register their vehicle or obtain a driver’s license ... What’s the consequence?”
*Editor selection of actual participant quotes.