ACLU Challenges NH Law Targeting Student Voters; House GOP Leader Opposes

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Editor’s note: ACLU-NH issued this press release about its lawsuit and the GOP leadership was quick to respond. See House GOP Leader Dick Hinch’s response here and below.

CONCORD, N.H. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Hampshire filed a federal lawsuit today challenging a New Hampshire law that unconstitutionally restricts the right to vote for students, young people, and those new to the state.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of two Dartmouth College students who will be required to pay for New Hampshire driver’s licenses if they vote in the next election. If they don’t, they could face criminal penalties. The law, HB 1264, burdens their right to vote and acts as a “poll tax” by requiring new voters to shift their home state driver’s licenses and registrations to New Hampshire — which can add up to hundreds of dollars — solely for exercising their right to vote.  

“Under this law, 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 with up to one year in jail. Make no mistake — this is meant to deter young people from participating in our elections, and students are an important voting bloc here,” said Maggie Flaherty, one of the student plaintiffs.

The lawsuit cites a violation of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971. Its aim was not only to allow young people to vote, but also to encourage voting by eliminating obstacles.

“Some politicians are clearly terrified of the youth vote,” said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “That doesn’t give them the right to create barriers.”

College students’ right to vote in New Hampshire has been under attack for decades. As far back as 1972, the ACLU successfully challenged a law that tried to stop college students from voting if they planned to leave the state after graduation.

“Our laws should ensure that it’s easy for eligible people to vote — not put up red tape and require hundreds of dollars in fees,” said Henry Klementowicz, staff attorney with the ACLU of New Hampshire. “Sadly, this is the latest in a string of laws New Hampshire has enacted making voting more complicated, time consuming, and, with HB1264, expensive.”

The lawsuit, Casey v. Gardner, was filed in U.S. District Court in Concord. It names Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald as defendants.

The complaint is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/casey-v-gardner-complaint

Read the blog: https://www.aclu.org/blog/new-hampshire-law-illegally-targets-young-voters-ahead-2020-primary

More information is at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/casey-v-gardner

House Republicans Leaders Respond to ACLU Lawsuit on HB1264

Concord, NH- House Republican leaders released the following statements relative to the ACLU filing a lawsuit on HB1264 on behalf of Dartmouth College students.

House Republican Leader Richard Hinch (R-Merrimack):

“Just this past July, the NH Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion on HB1264 stating there is nothing unconstitutional about requiring individuals to make a choice as to where they are residents.”

“I do not understand what is so unreasonable for us to require that those who participate in our elections be residents of our state,” Hinch continued. “What I do believe to be unreasonable is that we have had two classifications of voters in our state: those who abide by our statutes and laws as residents, and those who don’t. Choosing New Hampshire as your domicile for voting should subject each and every one of us to the same obligation of state citizenship. This bill is about ensuring our elections remain fair for all who cast a vote in our state.”

House Election Law Committee Ranking Republican Kathleen Hoelzel (R-Raymond):

“Just yesterday the Election Law committee voted to pass HB106 to repeal all the provisions of HB1264. To bring this lawsuit now is just more of the same perpetual conspiracy theories from Democrats. HB1264 did not make us any different from our neighboring states. In this past election, there were no reports of any voters being disenfranchised by the new requirements. In fact, voter turnout in college towns made records. Considering the Supreme Court has already issued an advisory opinion on this bill, I look forward to that opinion being upheld by the US District Court.”

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