While he was leaning toward siding with four college students, Superior Court Judge John Lewis won’t decide until this afternoon whether out-of-state students need to establish residency to vote here. Lewis heard arguments Wednesday about a new law — originally filed as Senate Bill 318 — which requires people to sign a form declaring New Hampshire as their domicile. As a result, voters would be subject to all state laws, including having to register their vehicle and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days of coming to live in the state. Between 1979 and 2007 students were allowed to vote in New Hampshire while maintaining residency in other states. The law was changed in June after the Legislature overrode Gov. John Lynch, who had vetoed the bill. “This is a serious decision,” Lewis said, adding both sides have until this afternoon to file any additional arguments, evidence or information before he makes a ruling.
On Sept. 12, the New Hampshire chapters of the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition in Strafford County Superior Court on behalf of four students — Hannah Rivers of Durham who attends the University of New Hampshire, Megan Arsenault of Manchester, who attends Southern New Hampshire University, Ariel DeLaura of Keene, who attends Keene State College, and Taylor Pacheco of Dover, who also attends UNH.
All four students carry out-of-state driver’s licenses and plan to leave New Hampshire after graduating from college, according to Joan Flood Ashwell, an election law specialist for the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire. “It doesn’t affect a lot of people,” Flood Ashwell said, adding nonetheless, they have the right to vote on issues affecting them while they are in the state.