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Court Order Confirms Students' Right to Vote in New Hampshire

Court Order Confirms Students' Right to Vote in New Hampshire

"Court Order Confirms Students' Right to Vote in New Hampshire" is a cross-post from the New Hampshire Labor News.

Voting rights groups applauded Strafford Superior Court Judge John Lewis’ order to the Secretary of State to issue new voter registration forms for this election. The new registration forms will delete a paragraph that advised all voters they would be subject to registering a car and getting a state driver's license if they registered to vote. The order also instructs the Secretary of State to post new information on his website and to inform election officials in towns and cities to immediately begin using the corrected voter registration form. This decision is based upon the recognition that individuals who are in the state for a limited period of time, such as students or persons doing military duty, have an absolute right to vote here while living in New Hampshire, but are unable to get state driver's licenses because the motor vehicle law limits residents to those who intend to stay permanently or indefinitely.

“We are very pleased the judge agreed with our concern that students who come to college in New Hampshire might give up their right to vote because of concerns about registering a car and getting a New Hampshire driver’s license even when they knew they would leave after graduation,” said Joan Flood Ashwell, election law specialist for the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire.

The new paragraph on the voter registration form was confusing and misleading, and there was no clarifying information on the Secretary of State’s website. Now, the website will state clearly the difference between domicile for voting and residence for motor vehicles purposes, and it will clearly state that out-of-state college students do not have to register a car in New Hampshire or get a state driver’s license as a condition for voting.

The petition for an injunction against the law was filed by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union (NHCLU) on behalf of four college students who came from other states to study in New Hampshire and who plan to leave after their studies are complete. The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and Ashwell were also plaintiffs. America Votes New Hampshire works closely with the League and the NHCLU on election issues.

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