N.H. AG: Out-Of-State Students Don't Lose Voting Eligibility Due To 'Temporary Absence'
This post has been updated with additional comments from the state Republican and Democratic parties.
College students who previously registered to vote in New Hampshire do not automatically lose their voting eligibility if they’re out of state due to remote learning or other circumstances, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office affirmed Wednesday.
This comes in response to letters from the New Hampshire Republican Party seeking to prohibit students from voting in New Hampshire if they’re learning remotely and don’t have an address in the state.
Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen, who leads the state’s Election Law Unit, wrote in a letter issued Oct. 21 that voting eligibility “hinges on the facts relevant to that particular individual,” and “broad guidance may not capture every possible permutation.”
But Chong Yen said three things are clear: Someone doesn’t give up their ability to vote in New Hampshire due to a “temporary absence;” someone can’t vote in New Hampshire if they’ve never established a “physical presence” here to begin with; and students are allowed to vote in New Hampshire even if they’re originally from another state.
“As the New Hampshire Supreme Court has recently confirmed, it reflects longstanding domicile law that a student living in New Hampshire and attending an institution of learning may lawfully claim domicile in the town or ward in which the student lives if the student’s claim of domicile meets the requirements of [New Hampshire’s voting eligibility law],” Chong Yen wrote in his response to the Republican Party.
The New Hampshire Republican Party, however, wasn't fully satisfied with the state's response. In a follow-up letter sent Wednesday afternoon, Attorney Sean List pressed the state to specify the terms under which students would retain their voting eligibility while living out of state.
"If moving out of the state, maintaining no abode in New Hampshire, and being eligible to register to vote in another state do not categorically establish domicile elsewhere, it is difficult to imagine what would," List wrote, requesting a response from the attorney general's office within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Democratic Party and other advocacy groups cast the Republicans' line of questioning as an attempt to discourage otherwise eligible voters from participating in the election.
"If you are a U.S. citizen, will be 18 years of age or older by Election Day, and your home is New Hampshire - even if you are temporarily absent - you can vote in New Hampshire," said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Holly Shulman. "These rules apply to all Granite Staters, including military service members serving at a base outside New Hampshire, college students who are currently learning remotely because of the pandemic, and other Granite Staters who are temporarily out of state."
For more information on voting in New Hampshire based on official advice from the New Hampshire Secretary of State and other election officials, check out NHPR's voter guide here.
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