Nashua Telegraph Guest Column: New Hampshire Legislature at Forefront of Voter Suppression

April 2, 2017

By Jason Kander

In America, voting isn’t easy for everyone, and it never has been. Unfortunately, our electoral system favors people who have the resources and freedom to access and cast their ballot conveniently. Low-income workers, single mothers working two jobs and people with disabilities are among the groups who face the greatest obstacles to voting. By passing voter ID laws, restricting voter registration deadlines and limiting early voting, politicians across the country have found ways to reduce the power of large swaths of the electorate. Now, in New Hampshire, they’re inexplicably going after young people.

Republicans in the state legislature have decided that the best thing they can do for college students is not to address the student debt crisis, but to make it harder for them to vote in elections. New Hampshire is the only state in the country where the fight to keep college students from voting is taking place, which comes in the form of Senate Bill 3.

Beyond the sheer disenfranchisement and voter confusion that this bill would cause, Republicans in the legislature want to employ a much more sinister tactic to suppress the vote.

Senate Bill 3 would allow local election authorities to send police officers into college dormitories and apartment complexes to personally verify the addresses of student voters, who already will have signed a sworn statement saying they live where they say they live. While the intent is to target students, if this proposal becomes law, this could happen to anyone in the state. Forcing a police officer to go door-to-door with questions about your plans to vote is a huge waste of that officer’s time. In addition to making the public less safe by taking officers away from battling crime, it’s also inconsistent with the spirit of American democracy.

What’s worse is that people who start voting when they’re young are the most likely to show up consistently to the polls throughout their lives. Disenfranchising and intimidating young voters has devastating long-term consequences.

There is more to this agenda than simply suppressing the vote. Not coincidentally, Republicans are pushing this bill just months after New Hampshire Democrats won both a U.S. Senate seat and the presidential vote in the 2016 election. Senate Bill 3 will tip the scales against Democrats where they’ve have won by razor-thin margins.

For decades, some Republicans across the country have gotten away with passing deliberate voter suppression laws by rebranding them as efforts to fight against voter fraud. But in New Hampshire, Republicans responsibly defended against accusations of voter fraud when President Trump made up lies about voters being bussed into New Hampshire as an excuse for why he lost the state. But seeing the political advantage of suppressing voters, they’ve now pivoted to saying that we need to crack down on college students voting in the Granite State.

In the past, these battles were played out in courts of law or handled by the Justice Department–almost always resulting in victories for the rights of voters. But now that Donald Trump controls the Justice Department and appoints federal judges, we have to take this fight to the court of public opinion and beat proposals like these before they become law.

We can’t let Senate Bill 3 pass, and we can’t let folks trying to make it harder for college students to exercise their right to vote get off scot-free. It turns out that politicians don’t like it and aren’t used to it when they get pushback on their voter suppression efforts–and you might be able to get them to change their mind. Find out where your senator and representative stands on Senate Bill 3 and other voter suppression bills, and make sure your feelings are known when it’s time to decide if New Hampshire will keep its elections open and fair.