Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled Monday that out-of-state students have the right to vote in New Hampshire, a decision immediately criticized by top Republican legislators. “New Hampshire citizens have a right to elect individuals of their own choosing,” House Speaker William O’Brien said in a joint statement with Senate President Peter Bragdon. “Allowing non-residents into New Hampshire to dictate who will be our presidential choice, who shall be our governor, and who shall represent us in the Legislature takes away our voting rights.” He added: “Legislating otherwise from the bench to say there are two classes of voters — all of us who reside in New Hampshire, and those residents of other states who choose to vote here because we are a battleground state — is judicial activism of the worst sort. The Supreme Court needs to act quickly to restore the voting rights of New Hampshire’s citizens” The law — passed in June by a Senate override of Gov. John Lynch’s veto — required people to sign a form declaring New Hampshire as their domicile.
On Monday afternoon, Lewis directed Secretary of State Bill Gardner to reissue the form without the paragraph that states voters who declare New Hampshire as their domicile must register their vehicles and obtain a New Hampshire license within 60 days of becoming a resident. “The state offers no compelling justification for this paragraph, which, again, presents an inaccurate expression of the law and has a clear harmful effect on the exercise of voting rights and education connected therewith,” Lewis wrote.