Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

adult toys, movies  & more

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

New Hampshire stymies student suffrage

More than 50,000 college students reside in New Hampshire — depending on what you mean by "reside." Granite State Republicans have put forth a new take on that definition, one that some say is intended to disenfranchise young voters.

"They know that New Hampshire is going to come down to one or two thousand votes, so Republicans are trying to keep students from registering here," says Andrew Sylvia, president of the Democrats Club at Keene State College.

Among an array of recently passed New Hampshire election-law reforms is a change in the definition of who has a right to vote there. "An established domicile" in the state is no longer enough; instead, New Hampshire must be the site of a voter’s "a single established domicile" (emphasis added), newly defined as "that one place where a person ... manifests an intent to maintain a single continuous presence for domestic, social, and civil purposes."

In other words, voting is not meant for punks just passing through before running home to mommy and daddy for the summer. A new voter-registration form further emphasizes the point. "I understand that a person can claim only one state and one city/town as his or her domicile," it reads in part. "In declaring New Hampshire as my domicile, I realize that I may be forfeiting benefits or rights."

That last vaguely threatening clause is causing particular consternation, both for out-of-state students and for native New Hampshirites who attend school in another part of the state. Town clerks and college offices have spread word of grave consequences for those who renounce their "real" domicile. Some are easily dealt with; for example, voters must obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license or ID within 60 days of declaring the new domicile, which could in turn affect their car insurance. But word has also spread — partly through rumor, partly through zealous officials — that students who change their official domicile can lose their financial aid, their health insurance, and who knows what else. Registrants must also sign a scary new domicile affidavit, which threatens imprisonment and fines for those who commit voter fraud through a false domicile claim.

"There is an atmosphere of fear, whether it is intentional or not," says Bill McCarthy, an organizer with New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, in Concord. "It has the effect of being very discouraging." The sentiment is echoed by Sam Mekrut, executive director of Citizens Alliance. "Our feeling is that there shouldn’t be consequences from voting," she says. Mekrut adds that claiming a New Hampshire domicile does not trigger a right to state benefits such as in-state tuition rates or Medicaid.

At a Tuesday forum at Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, representatives of the secretary of state and attorney general answered questions about the domicile law, but failed to clear up the issues, Mekrut says. Chuck Weed, a state representative and a political-science professor at Keene State College, also attended the unsatisfying forum. "I’m almost certain we’re going to have a constitutional challenge" to the domicile law, he says.

Republicans say the law is intended to ensure that people vote where they have a true stake and interest, while letting permanent residents control their own local politics. But just a handful of Democratic legislators joined the Republican majority in voting for it, Weed says: "It would be hard to call it a bipartisan piece of legislation."

Towns have historically discouraged college students from voting locally, McCarthy says, but the issue has special salience this year. The presidential election is expected to be very close in New Hampshire, a state that awarded its four puny but critical electoral votes to George W. Bush in 2000 by a margin of just 6800 votes. Groups aligned with both parties are encouraging students to vote in swing-state New Hampshire rather than in their "home" states — particularly if they come from, say, Massachusetts. "I’ve talked to a few [students from Massachusetts] and told them they should register up here," says Sylvia.

The Democratic National Committee is sending legal observers to New Hampshire, as it is to other closely contested states, to help ensure that nobody is prevented from voting. The state’s Democratic Party has set up a Web site (www.studentscanvote.com) to try to clear up the confusion, and is looking for volunteers to help spread the word on campuses, according to New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesperson Kathleen Strand. But Mekrut is particularly concerned about unprepared students who arrive at the polling place planning to register that day, which is allowed in New Hampshire. When faced with the affidavit and warnings of dire consequences, they may simply turn away.

People interested in volunteering can call (603) 225-6899, or fill out a volunteer form at www.nh-democrats.org.

Issue Date: October 15 - 21, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group