New Hampshire: ‘Young people, keep out’

New Hampshire: ‘Young people, keep out’

by Jeannie Hruska

New Hampshire is waging a war on young people. This is quite peculiar given that any lawmaker will tell you that our state desperately needs young people. In fact, the governor established a Millennial Advisory Council last year specifically aimed at figuring out how New Hampshire can better attract and retain young people.

Here’s an idea, stop trying to charge college students for their right to vote.

During its meeting this week in Concord, the Millennial Advisory Council should take a look at how the NH House Election Law Committee is once again considering putting up a “Young People Keep Out” sign on our border through HB 1264, which aims to deter college students from voting.

HB 1264 is effectively the same bill as the highly scrutinized HB 372. They both would result in the same poll tax for any voter in New Hampshire who has an out-of-state drivers’ license, which disproportionately includes college students. These bills would require such voters, within 60 days of voting, to pay the motor vehicle fees to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and car registration.

It is absolutely legal to vote with an out-of-state driver’s license or car registration in New Hampshire. People do it all the time, in every state, and have been for years. It is not a sign of voter fraud. It is a sign of the times, where people move for school, for work, for family, or any host of reasons. And yet, some legislators want to specifically require college students who do not have a New Hampshire driver’s license to pay motor vehicle fees as a condition of voting.

In a hearing this week on HB1264, one Representative claimed that allowing college students to vote disenfranchises “the local community,” implying students are not part of that community. I bet business owners in every college town would beg to differ, noting their reliance on students as employees and customers. More- over, I would inquire how making college students pay DMV fees somehow makes them more genuine community members.

College students live here and are integral to our communities. They spend money in our stores. They drive on our roads and have a vested interest in our infrastructure. They seek medical care at our hospitals and are a stakeholder in our health care system. They explore our mountains and care for our environment. So why is it that they shouldn’t vote here? Why don’t they have a vested interest in their college communities?

HB 372 was proposed last session and is currently pending in the House of Representatives. We commend Governor Sununu for bucking many in his own party by opposing HB 372. We implore him to stay true to his word and veto HB 372. As HB 372 is effectively the same as HB 1264, we assume that the Governor’s coura- geous position is the same on this new bill as well.

It would be a thinly-veiled rouse were the Legislature to kill HB 372 in response to the Governor’s resistance, only to pass HB 1264. If our elected officials swap one for the other, we deserve the scrutiny that will inevitably follow. And we will earn our declining demographics.

Our state unquestionably needs more young people. We need them to fill jobs, to fix our colleges’ declining enrollment, and to care for our aging population. But, why should young people come here and invest in our communities if we make clear that we think of them as lesser citizens? They may keep our businesses running, our college doors open, but how dare they vote here.

Oh wait, they can vote, if they jump through hoops that make voting look more like a pay-to-play obstacle course. Obstacles that no state in our surrounding area imposes. Voting costs a college student nothing in Vermont or Maine.

But vote in New Hampshire, and it will cost you over $100 in DMV fees.

New Hampshire is increasingly the des- tination for retirees, including people who spend the winters elsewhere. And yet, there is no discussion about how allowing such people to vote disenfranchises the people who stick it out here 365 days a year. Nope, it’s only college students who may go home during part of the summer that are a problem.

Those pesky young people.

There is no lack of irony in the Governor’s Millennial Advisory Council meeting the same week that the House Election Law Committee considers yet another bill that would make the Granite State that much less attractive to young people.

If this is the New Hampshire way, let us be honest about it. At every border sign that says “Welcome to New Hampshire,” let us add a sign that says, “Young people, Keep Out.”

Jeanne Hruska is policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire.

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