Map: Who Might Be Affected By Stricter Residency Requirements Linking Voting and Vehicle Licensing?

Sep 20, 2019

State offices that oversee elections and motor vehicle laws have declined to explain what implications, if any, New Hampshire’s new residency standards would have on licensing requirements. That’s despite growing confusion over whether the law could require voters to obtain in-state drivers licenses after casting a ballot.   

While the state has not said definitively that people who vote in New Hampshire would have to get a New Hampshire drivers license under the new law, there are ways to measure how many people could be affected if this turns out to be the case.

As it stands, voters are allowed to present an out-of-state license as a valid form of photo ID at the polls in New Hampshire — as long as they can vouch that they meet other eligibility criteria. 

New Hampshire pollworkers record when people present out-of-state licenses on Election Day and keep track of where those licenses come from. That information then gets compiled in the state’s voter database. 

In an effort to understand the potential effects of the new residency law, NHPR requested data on how many New Hampshire voters used out-of-state IDs in the most recent statewide elections, the 2018 midterms. (We collected a similar dataset a few years ago, when trying to fact-check unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud in New Hampshire.) 

That data shows that most of the people who stand to be affected if the law were to require New Hampshire voters to obtain an in-state license live near college campuses and urban areas. 

If we get any clarity on whether voters would, indeed, need to obtain an in-state license after voting in New Hampshire — or any other new details about how the new residency standards will be enforced — we’ll update this post to reflect that.

If you are having trouble viewing this map, click here for a full screen version.

As NHPR has reported, some political groups have been telling students on New Hampshire college campuses that they would need to get a New Hampshire drivers license if they vote here, but that hasn’t been confirmed by any state office that handles either voting or vehicle enforcement.   

Local election officials have been fielding questions on the same topic, and have been told to refer those questions to the Division of Motor Vehicles. But when NHPR has asked the DMV for clarity, they’ve refused to comment.

In guidance sent to election officials this week, the attorney general’s office recommended printing copies of  the DMV’s “helpful ‘New Resident of New Hampshire, Welcome to New Hampshire!’ informational page” to distribute to people who ask about licensing requirements.

That website says, “Once a person has established residency in New Hampshire (RSA 21:6 and RSA 259:88, he/she has a maximum of 60 days to register his/her vehicle(s) and obtain a New Hampshire driver license.” 

NHPR has repeatedly asked DMV to clarify whether it considers the act of voting in New Hampshire to count as establishing residency, therefore triggering the licensing requirements, but we have received no answer.

The agency has also refused to say whether they’ve enacted any new policies or procedures as a result of the new residency law, whether there are plans to collect information from voter registration records as a result of the change and, more generally, what steps the agency will take to enforce the new law.

“Because of pending litigation, the Division cannot provide a comment,” Department of Safety Spokesman Michael Todd wrote in an email this week.