Legislators in Concord Thursday heard more than an hour of testimony on a bill that would roll back voter residency restrictions. About 100 people attended the hearing.
A measure passed last year, HB 1264, requires New Hampshire voters demonstrate their intent to make the state their principal place of physical presence “to the exclusion of all others.”
The new proposed legislation, House Bill 106, would add back four words to the statute “for the indefinite future.”
Supporters of the current law said that it will help make sure residents in the state temporarily won’t have an effect on local elections.
But opponents contend the law disenfranchises college students and other groups who may live in the state for most or all of the year.
Dartmouth College junior and voting organizer Michael Parsons said he believes confusion around the measure turned college students away from the ballot box.
“Instead of listening to the clear pleas of young people in our state — and the state hopes to keep — this state house has tried to shut them out of the process,” Parsons said.
The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office signaled it stands by the current legislation.
“This committee should look at: The law has passed and it is the way that it is. Are there certain aspects of that that are treating voters unfairly,” said Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan. “And if there is, how do we deal with it in the confines of the existing statute.”
Others including Gilles Bissonette, Legal Director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, spoke in support of HB 106, claiming the current law places a financial burden on students and other groups.
“What this does is cause certain constitutionally eligible voters who live in New Hampshire — but may have plans to leave New Hampshire five, six years down the road — to, within 60 days of registering to vote, pay monies to the state through car registration or driver’s license fees,” Bissonette said.
The current law does not go into effect until July of this year.