Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis assured out-of-state college students of their right to vote in New Hampshire by ordering the state to issue new voter registration forms before the November elections.
Thanks to a challenge by the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and four students represented by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, Judge Lewis stated that a requirement in voter registration forms based on a new law would have a "clear, harmful effect" on the voting rights of college students and others.
In the past, students have been allowed to declare New Hampshire as their home state, meaning they have been allowed to vote in New Hampshire elections. This has been law since a federal judge ruled in 1972 that the state could not forbid out-of-state students from voting even if they planned to move away after graduation.
The new law, passed this year over Governor John Lynch’s veto, required new voters to sign a statement declaring New Hampshire their home. This meant that students became subject to laws that apply to all residents, such as registering a car and getting a state driver’s license.
Joan Flood Ashwell, election law specialist for the New Hampshire League, declared:
We are very pleased the judge agreed with our concern that students who come to college in New Hampshire might give up their right to vote because of concerns about registering a car and getting a New Hampshire driver's license even when they knew they would leave after graduation.
The League has a fact sheet to educate and assist students who would like to vote in New Hampshire this election cycle. For students in other states who would like to vote where they go to school, please consult the Brennan Center for Justice 50 State Student Voting Guide.