CONCORD, N.H. — Ten individuals or groups have weighed in as the New Hampshire Supreme Court decides whether to consider the constitutionality of ending the state’s distinction between full-fledged residents and those who claim the state as their domicile in order to vote.
Current law allows college students and others who say they are domiciled in New Hampshire to vote without being official residents subject to residency requirements, such as getting a New Hampshire driver’s license or registering a vehicle. The Legislature sent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu a bill last week to align the definitions of domicile and residency, but he wants the court to clarify whether doing so would be constitutional.
Thursday was the deadline for parties to submit documents to the court, which has not yet decided whether to answer the question. Five groups or individuals, including the Republican-led House and Senate and several taxpayer advocacy organizations, submitted documents to the court backing the bill. Democrats in the Senate and on the governor’s Executive Council opposed it, along with the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In its memo, the ACLU argued that the court shouldn’t even consider the issue, but if it does, it should find that the bill arbitrarily and irrationally targets college students and would impose discriminatory financial requirements.
In a memo filed jointly with the Fair Elections Center, the group also said the bill would treat similar people differently solely based on voter registration. For example, if twins from Maine moved to New Hampshire to attend college and one of them registered to vote, that person would be required to also register his or her car while the other would not.
“The imposition of fees on voters simply because they decide to register to vote in New Hampshire is the very definition of a poll tax,” said Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU legal director.
Supporters of the legislation, however, argued that a poll tax exists only if paying a fee is required before voting, which would not be the case if it passes.Supporters also argued that the bill clears up confusion and ends the practice of having two classes of voters in the state.