Law Barring Out-Of-State Students From Voting Ruled Unconstitutional

Jul 25, 2014

Credit Tracy Lee Carroll, NHPR

A New Hampshire judge has struck down a law requiring out-of-state students to establish legal residency before being allowed to vote.

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of four out-of-state college students two years ago, shortly after lawmakers overrode a veto by then-Gov. John Lynch and passed Senate Bill 318.

The bill added language to New Hampshire's voter registration form that required those registering to vote to sign an affidavit stating they are subject to the state’s residency laws, which include obtaining a New Hampshire driver’s license and registering their car in New Hampshire. 

The NHCLU argued the law placed "onerous and financially burdensome residency requirements" as a condition for voting" when statutes only required prospective voters to be "domiciled" in New Hampshire. The plaintiffs said the law would not only disenfranchise college students, but people who planned to retire and military members temporarily stationed in New Hampshire.

Friday's ruling, which makes permanent a preliminary order issued in September 2012, found that the language added to the voter registration form was "confusing" and "not reasonably necessary to advance any interest the State has set forth.”

“Today is a good day to be a New Hampshire voter,” said Gilles Bissonnette, staff attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. “In striking down this law, the court recognized that constitutional rights, especially the most fundamental right to vote, are essential to a functioning democracy."

The plaintiffs were also represented by William E. Christie and Benjamin Siracusa Hillman of Shaheen & Gordon, PA and Alan J. Cronheim of Sisti Law Office.