Great news out of New Hampshire: a victory for the good guys in the war on voting.
Some New Hampshire Republicans have been pushing legislation that would prohibit many college students from voting by requiring them to have previously established residency in their college town before ever going to school there. (You can see background here and here.)
Yesterday, the House Elections Committee voted 13 to 5 to kill this ridiculous restriction on student voting rights.
The bill's sponsor, state Representative Gregory Sorg, had shown a particular disdain for young voters, accusing them in a public hearing of possessing "a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce." The insults didn't stop there as House Speaker William O'Brien expressed his view that students didn't deserve to vote at their school because they are "foolish" and "just vote their feelings." (For real, he said that. You can watch the video here.)
Well, students certainly had strong feelings about this piece of legislation.
We saw an inspiring effort by students across the state to beat back this legislative assault on voting rights. A multi-partisan coalition that ran the political spectrum - Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and more - came together to organize, testify, and rally. As the heads of the College Democrats and College Republicans at Dartmouth blogged here a few days ago, "the most distressing implication of HB 176 is its innate assertion that students are not truly members of their state and local communities, that the stake we hold in our politics is mitigated by the location where our parents happen to reside. The bill tells us, 'Vote somewhere else.'" (Side note: the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that students have the right to vote where they go to school. It was in a case out of New Hampshire!)
The national media took note when the Washington Post ran a front page story Monday on the War on Voting and shined a light on the motives behind the bill. Speaker O'Brien's comments were widely mocked. And, for now, legislators have shelved this transparent - and unconstitutional - effort to stop students from voting.
Another piece of good news: The House Elections Committee voted 18 to 0 to reject an effort to end Election Day registration. The long-standing ability of qualified New Hampshire voters to register to vote on Election Day is one of the reasons the state has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country. Efforts to eliminate Election Day registration was another piece of the anti-young voter agenda. Speaker O'Brien, according to the Washington Post story on Monday, "said [Election Day registration] unleashes swarms of students on polling places...." Golly, we can't have that!
Still on the horizon is a restrictive photo ID bill. The fight is not over. We'll keep you posted.
Young voter participation has been on the rise. We should be celebrating and continuing to encourage participation among the country's largest and fastest growing group of voters. Instead, we are witnessing a concerted state-by-state effort to erect new barriers and reverse existing laws that have lead to greater access. It's a blatant attempt to make it harder for young people to vote. And it is wrong.
I hope you'll join the fight because even as we celebrate a major victory in New Hampshire the war on voting rages on.
Cross-posted from Rock The Vote
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