Democratic Presidential Contenders Criticize New Hampshire Voting Restriction

Opponents say a new law amounts to a poll tax in the state that plays a crucial role in presidential politics.

Several Democrats running for the White House quickly came out against a revision to New Hampshire law that adds a new requirement for voters in the state that holds the nation’s first presidential primary.

New Hampshire currently requires that people simply be “domiciled” in the state and not necessarily an official resident to vote there ― language that opens up the franchise to many college students. But beginning July 1, a new law would align the legal definitions of being domiciled and being a resident.

As a result, anyone claiming to be “domiciled” in order to be eligible to vote would also be saying they were a resident. And those who declare residency in New Hampshire and want to drive there ― the vast majority of people ― are required to get a state driver’s license and register any vehicle they own within 60 days. A driver’s license in the state costs $50.

Civil rights groups say the change amounts to a “poll tax” and is clearly targeted at New Hampshire’s out-of-state college students.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state over it in federal court.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) wrote a letter to all of her party’s presidential candidates asking them to support a petition opposing the measure.

“Here, where the first-in-the-nation presidential primary makes voting a special responsibility, a new voter suppression law means tens of thousands of young people could lose their right to vote,” Shaheen wrote. The letter was first reported by CNN.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas ― all of whom seek the Democratic presidential nomination ― have tweeted that they oppose the law.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed the measure into law last year after initially expressing some skepticism about it. The New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion saying it was reasonable to require someone who wanted to vote in New Hampshire to meet the obligations of a resident, and Sununu said in an op-ed that he agreed.

The state legislature ― controlled at the time by Republicans ― passed the measure last year after President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed without evidence that people were bused into New Hampshire from out of state to illegally vote in the 2016 election. The state investigated and found nothing that supported that claim.

Trump lost New Hampshire and its four electoral votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton by less than 3,000 votes. Also in the 2016 election, Democrat Maggie Hassan defeated then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) by just 1,017 votes.

Democrats took control of the New Hampshire legislature in the 2018 election and are advancing a bill to repeal the new voting restriction. But the Democrats lack the votes to override a likely veto of such legislation by Sununu.