Mar 102011
 
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A hotly contested bill under consideration in New Hampshire could change voting regulations with the intention of limiting the student vote to only those who permanently reside in the area.

Sponsored by Representative Gregory Sorg ®, House Bill 176 aims to restrict out-of-state students from voting in the community where they are attending school. The bill reads that students should not have a local vote because they intend on returning home after their time at school is complete.

Supporters said that students often come into local elections uninformed of the issues and the local candidates. In a New Hampshire public hearing, Sorg said that long time residents are having their votes “diluted or entirely canceled by those … people with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce.”

Sorg did not return three phone calls from the Collegian to comment.

CSU junior liberal arts major Amy Kozlarek contends that students aren’t the only uniformed groups in elections, and in some cases the opposite is seen.

“People from out-of-state often know more and can make a better decision than many local people,”she said.

CSU associate professor of political science Kyle Saunders said in an e-mail to the Collegian that “Arguments surrounding voter fraud, registration, residency and citizenship do emerge from valid concerns in some areas,” citing that state voting regulations vary widely.
For instance, Colorado is among numerous other states that have debated tightening the identification requirements to vote and negotiated registration deadlines.

In some cases, student IDs and even passports wouldn’t be good enough at all. Similar measures are already in effect in Tennessee and Idaho, but they are not as radical as the proposed New Hampshire changes.

In a phone interview with the Collegian, Democratic Party of New Hampshire Press Secretary Harrell Kirstein said, “This bill seeks to unconstitutionally take away voting rights for groups based on the way they traditionally vote.”

New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien ® supports the bill and in a Rochester, New Hampshire town hall meeting said, “Any one person should only be able to claim residency in one location. That’s common sense.”

He went on to say that college students “are kids voting liberal, [and] voting their feelings with no life experience.”
He was unavailable for comment to the Collegian.

Professor Saunders said that, though there are valid arguments, “There is no doubt that there are also political implications.”

Opposition is fierce on both the political left and right sides. The Democratic Party of New Hampshire maintains that Republicans are only trying to disenfranchise a group of traditionally Democratic voters found in the 18-24 age bracket in an attempt to vote and gain more power.

Regarding the legislation as a whole, Kirstein said that the party feels this bill “is reckless and unconstitutional.”

Groups from around the country including Rock the Vote are fighting back with messages and campaigns aimed to keep the student voice an active part of the political system.

“We’d like to be advocating for a 21st-century voting system, but here we are fighting against efforts to turn it back to the 19th century,”
Thomas Bates, the vice president of Rock the Vote, said on the group’s website.

Similar sentiments were iterated around the state of New Hampshire, including and on college campuses.

Saunders said the long-term implications if such legislation passed in any state would be a decrease in the amount of Democrat voters that would ultimately hurt Democratic candidates. The 2012 election season is nearing; results could shape the outcomes for years to come.

Professor Saunders concluded by saying that if younger voters voted in the same proportions as older people, they would be a much more formidable political force.  Right now, their lack of involvement means that they, and their concerns, can be taken for granted.

Staff writer Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Why it matters

  • What: Stricter voting measures that would ultimately limit student voice in local issues
  • Why it matters: If passed, more Republican control of issues and a hushed Democratic voice in states around the country.
  • How to change it: “If younger voters voted at the same proportions as older people, they would be a much more formidable political force.” – Professor Kyle Saunders  
 Posted by at 4:22 pm

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