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New Hampshire Laws Force Some College Students To Pay To Vote

The state motto of New Hampshire hearkens back to the days of the Revolutionary War: “Live Free or Die.” Yet in spite of that motto, however, election laws in the state, particularly for out-of-state college students, are incredibly burdensome.

 (Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Students who moved to New Hampshire to attend college or university in the state are being forced to prove permanent residency — a requirement that isn’t too uncommon in the rest of the nation.

Where the Granite State differs, however, is that students who move there must get new drivers licenses and re-register their motor vehicles to reflect their New Hampshire residency, or face serious punishments for failing to do so if they decide to vote. Other means of proving residency aren’t enough, according to the law.

Getting a license and re-registering a vehicle costs money, of course, which some students, according to reporting from The Daily Beast, equate to paying fees in order to vote in the state.

Garrett Muscatel, for example, a 20-year-old Dartmouth student (and a Democrat in the state’s legislature) opposes the new rule. “Republicans passed legislation to make it so that college students couldn’t vote without paying a poll tax,” he described the bill as being.

Another student, Maggie Flaherty, a California transplant who wrote a blog post for the ACLU on the matter, explained what could happen if she doesn’t make the changes.

“I have to pay to change my California license to be a New Hampshire one. If I vote and don’t change my license within 60 days, I could even be charged with a misdemeanor offense punishable with up to one year in jail,” she wrote.

The 24th amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits so-called “poll taxes” in order to vote.

The purpose of the law may seem like a noble one to some residents; it merely wants to ensure that New Hampshire residents are taking part in their elections. But the law’s stringent requirements are discouraging some eligible students from voting altogether, critics contend.

It’s not as simple to get the documents changed, either. For students at Dartmouth, it can mean a 40-minute drive to the DMV. Getting a new license also carries with it a $50 fee, and changing a vehicle registration can cost up to $300, according to Muscatel.

The law was upheld in the New Hampshire state Supreme Court last year, The ACLU is suing to block it, citing federal grounds that the law is unconstitutional.



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