Armed with a Supreme Court opinion, Gov. Chris Sununu quickly signed into law House Bill 1264 Friday, much to the consternation of those opposed to the voter-obstruction attempt. The new law is a bad one, regardless of what a 3-2 majority of the court found. It’s a cynical attempt to throw hurdles in front of those attending New Hampshire colleges, but who hail from out of state, and little more. That doesn’t mean it will affect only those students; other groups will also soon find themselves burdened with having to produce a state driver’s license or auto registration in order to cast New Hampshire ballots. They include military personnel stationed here; seasonal workers or those on temporary assignment; per-diem nurses and other fill-in health workers; and anyone rightfully living in the state while on a contract. As the court’s majority itself noted, even a town or city manager serving a limited term might be deemed “not a resident” and therefore not eligible to vote if he or she didn’t profess an intent to remain in the state permanently.
Of course, many people in those categories may well be better able to afford to register a vehicle here and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license than are students. If so, that’s good for them, because that will likely be the requirement for voter registration come next July 1.
The real issue at hand is the longtime insistence of the state’s Republican lawmakers — some of whom have been chillingly candid about their motivation to keep students, who tend to vote more for Democrats, from the polls — that voting be somehow tied to auto registration and obtaining an in-state driver’s license. That’s something many students put off because of the cost — $50 for a license, and possibly hundreds of dollars to register a vehicle — but which the state deems evidence of being an “official” resident. And what about those students who don’t drive or own vehicles?