Students make up a large portion of the population in several towns in New Hampshire, including Durham, Keene, Hanover, and Plymouth. The issue of these students and their right to vote has been the subject of bills nearly every legislative session for the past few years.
Where should college students vote?
When it comes to voting, college students in and from New Hampshire have a choice:
- They can vote in their home state using an absentee ballot.
- They can vote in person in the state where they attend school.
A college student must choose one option or the other: to do both would constitute an act of voter fraud.
Voting while studying in NH
New Hampshire law does allow adults over age 18 who are attending college here to vote in our elections.
- Like all voters, they must register to vote.
- They must also present an ID at the polls or sign an affadavit. Currently, a student ID for a New Hampshire college or university is still considered valid ID for voting purposes.
As of July 2019, voting in New Hampshire will be equivalent to declaring legal residency in the Granite State. This means that students who opt to vote here will become subject to other requirements for state residents, such as the obligation to register cars here and to get a New Hampshire driver’s license.
Areas of controversy
Several changes in state policy on voting and registering to vote that could affect students have been considered in recent years. The most significant was the passage of HB 1264 (2018) in July 2018. Before that bill passed, out-of-state college students at New Hampshire schools could opt to vote in the Granite State without taking on the other obligations of residency.
HB 1264 (2018) took effect in July 2019. That bill has the effect of requiring anyone who votes in New Hampshire to fulfill other obligations of being a resident of the state, such as the requirement to get a Granite State driver’s license or register a car here.
Legislators have debated further requirements for student voters, including additional documentation from anyone registering to vote within 30 days of an election. Legislators have also debated removing college IDs from the list of identification allowed under the state's voter ID requirement.
"Students from out-of-state should be allowed to vote in NH elections."
- Requiring out-of-state college students to register their cars in New Hampshire and get Granite State driver’s licenses amounts to a poll tax, which will deter them from participating in our democracy.
- College students are, in fact, a part of the communities where they study. They work here, shop here, and play here. They should therefore have the right to vote here and help shape the policies that impact their lives.
- New Hampshire’s population is getting older. The Granite State needs to attract and retain more young workers, and denying them the right to vote here will not make them feel welcome and invested in our state.
The preceding points were made by Jeanne Hruska, policy director for the ACLU-NH, in an opinion piece in Foster’s Daily Democrat in January 2018.
"Students from out-of-state should not be allowed to vote in NH elections."
- Requiring out-of-state college students to commit to genuine residency in New Hampshire before voting here brings New Hampshire into line with every other state in the union.
- It would be unfair to allow a college student whose true place of residency is in another state to vote in a New Hampshire election, effectively canceling out the vote of another life-long resident of the Granite State.
- The New Hampshire Supreme Court has confirmed that the Granite State’s current voting laws are constitutional and do not unduly infringe upon the rights of college students to vote.
- College students from out-of-state who do not wish to take on the obligations of being full New Hampshire residents are not disenfranchised. They can still vote. They simply must do so via absentee ballot in their home states.
The preceding points were made by Michael Graham, political editor of NH Journal, in a July 2018 opinion piece responding to Gov. Chris Sununu’s signing of HB 1264.