Student Vote - Issue Summary

Should out-of-state students be allowed to vote in New Hampshire elections?

student vote

By: LFDA Editor

Students make up a large portion of the population in several towns in New Hampshire, including Durham, Keene, Hanover, and Plymouth. The issue of these students and their right to vote has been the subject of bills nearly every legislative session for the past few years.

Proponents of student voter restrictions argue that students are skewing the vote in college towns and earning the towns more liberal elected officials. They say that the students are not permanent residents and should not have the right to vote.

Opponents of laws meant to restrict student voting believe that it’s a misconception that students lean to the left. Opponents also argue that banning students from voting, despite the fact that many live in New Hampshire for only nine months out of the year, is equivalent to voter suppression. 

2015 Legislation

Rep. Dick Marston (R-Manchester) is the primary sponsor of HB 183, a 2015 bill that removes language from the voter registration form that suggests a voter who claims domicile must also have a New Hampshire driver's license. A voter must claim domicile, but not residency, to vote. Residency requires a New Hampshire driver's license, etc. The voter registration form currently reads, "In declaring New Hampshire as my domicile, I am subject to the laws of the state of New Hampshire which apply to all residents, including laws requiring a driver to register a motor vehicle and apply for a New Hampshire's driver's license within 60 days of becoming a resident." Some Democrats argue this wording is intended to discourage out-of-state college students from voting in New Hampshire.

Sen. Sharon Carson is the primary sponsor of SB 4, a 2015 bill that tightens the definition of domicile for the purpose of voting. Carson is also the primary sponsor of SB 179, a 2015 bill that requires that a voter has lived in the state and county for at least 30 days. SB 179 passed the Senate in March, followed by the House in June, but was vetoed by Gov. Hassan.

2014 Legislation

In 2014, HB 1506, which removed career school student IDs from the list of acceptable voter identification, was shot down, as were HB 1255, which made any student with their name on a voter checklist eligible for in-state tuition, and HB 1505, which required the University of New Hampshire to indicate whether a student was in-state or out-of-state on each ID card. SB 284, which says that students paying out-of-state tuition at UNH cannot claim New Hampshire as a domicile for voting purposes, was sent for interim study.

SB 374, which, after amendments, did not make it through the legislature, would establish a commission to review and make recommendations to standardize and make uniform the definitions of “domicile” and “residency” in state statutes.

Lastly, the House and Senate passed SB 206, which requires anyone objecting to a voter's identification to provide evidence that the ID does not prove the voter’s identity.

2013 Legislation

Gov. Hassan signed
HB 595 into law on July 24, 2013. It repealed parts of the voter ID regulations set to go into effect on September 1 that year. That fall, voters without ID were not required to fill out a voter affidavit form or be photographed, and poll workers were given permission to verify a person’s identity.

In May 2013, the Senate voted to reduce the number of accepted forms of voter ID, removing student IDs, and to delay the use of photos with affidavits until September 2015. Following debate, the Senate allowed for student IDs to continue to be a valid form of identification at the polls.

2012 Legislation

SB 289
, passed June 27, 2012, requires residents to show identification prior to voting in a town, state, or federal election. The bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Lynch but overridden by the House and Senate.

The law’s supporters argued that it would reduce voter fraud and that being required to show identification is a common occurrence (like when checking into a hotel or purchasing tobacco). Opponents said it was a form of discrimination toward students in addition to the elderly and low-income residents – groups least likely to be in possession of an ID form. 

During the trial run, between the bill’s passing and September 2013, voters without identification had to fill out an affidavit to confirm their identity and also have their photo taken, then later be contacted by the state, when they would confirm that they did vote (a result of
HB 1354). Vouchers were made available to those without identification who wished to obtain it for free.

SB 318
, also passed over the Governor’s veto in 2012, added terminology to voter registration forms that had a signing voter attest to New Hampshire being their domicile. The law was challenged in 2012 by the League of Women Voters and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, who asserted that it was discriminatory to students. It was ruled unconstitutional in July of 2014, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision in a May 2015 ruling.

HB 1478
, which passed the House in 2012 but was tabled by the Senate, deemed that people declaring a New Hampshire address as a domicile for voting purposes are also required to establish New Hampshire as their residence for motor vehicle law purposes. 

Previous Legislation

In 2011,
HB 176 proposed a definition for the word “domicile” that declared, for voting purposes, that the domicile of a person attending an institution of learning is not the place where the institution is located unless the person was domiciled there prior to matriculation. The bill was struck down in March 2011. 

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Take Action

If you are interested in the student vote and want to take action here are some choices:

  • If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on  How to Take Action.
  • Contact one of the organizations listed in Learn More. These groups represent the pro or con positions of issues.
  • Contact a government official as follows:

1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate.

2. Contact the Committee chairperson or members of the House Election Law Committee or the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee – these are the committees that oversee this issue.

3. Contact the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

4. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan

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Do you think out-of-state students should be allowed to vote in state elections?  Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

Rep. Dick Marston (R-Manchester) is the primary sponsor of HB 183, a 2015 bill that removes language from the voter registration form that suggests a voter who claims domicile must also have a New Hampshire driver's license.

Sen. Sharon Carson is the primary sponsor of SB 4, a 2015 bill that tightens the definition of domicile for the purpose of voting. Carson is also the primary sponsor of SB 179, a 2015 bill that requires that a voter has lived in the state and county for at least 30 days. SB 179 passed the Senate in March, followed by the House in June, but was vetoed by Gov. Hassan.


August 17, 2015
WMUR: Poll shows support for voter residency bill
July 11, 2015

WMUR: Hassan vetoes bill requiring 30-day residency for voting
July 4, 2015
Concord Monitor: State House: Bills' fates hang on Hassan
June 10, 2015

Seacoast Online: Lawmakers, ACLU protest N.H. 30-day residency voting requirement
June 3, 2015

Seacoast Online: NH House passes bill requiring 30 days as resident to vote
May 15, 2015

NHPR: NH Supreme Court: Voter form language unconstitutional
May 11, 2015

Nashua Telegraph: About 700 voters haven't confirmed ID from 2014 state polls
April 22, 2015

Seacoast Online: NH Supreme Court hears arguments on voter bill
April 10, 2015

NHPR: NH Supreme Court declines to weigh in on voter registration bill
March 27, 2015

WMUR: Senate bill would add 30-day residency requirement to vote
March 20, 2015
NHPR: House Asks NH supreme court to weigh in on proposed voting rules for out-of-state students
February 4, 2015
Concord Monitor: ACLU claims New Hampshire Secretary of State misled out-of-state voters
January 28, 2015
NHPR: House considering bill to create residency guidelines for voters
October 27, 2014
NHPR: With three tight races, NH GOP eyes college voters
October 26, 2014
Union Leader: Checking voter residence affidavits a slog for New Hampshire investigators
Union Leader: As vote nears, where you live matters
September 8, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Voting on Tuesday will require photo IDs or ‘challenged affidavit’
September 5, 2014
Union Leader: Secretary of State reminds voters to bring IDs to the polls
July 25, 2014
NHPR: Law barring out-of-state students from voting ruled unconstitutional
May 4, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Census: NH voting rates high among young adults (and everybody else, too) 
April 27, 2014
Eagle Tribune: NH House mulls changes to voter challenges
March 1, 2014

Nashua Telegraph: Primaries offer first major test of voter ID laws
September 16, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Voter ID law hasn’t uncovered fraud, but officials are still checking 

September 7, 2013
Concord Monitor: NH Democrats accuse GOP of hypocrisy on issue of voter fraud
July 24, 2013
Foster's Daily Democrat: Hassan signs voter bill; allows NH student IDs
July 23, 2013
WMUR: Concerns raised about voter eligibility
July 11, 2013
Union Leader: Sen. Shaheen's daughter: I know the NH voting rules
July 5, 2013
Foster's Daily Democrat: Trial scheduled for 2014 on voter registration forms
June 26, 2013
Seacoast Online: NH voter ID changes approved in Legislature
June 20, 2013
Union Leader: Agreement keeps NH student ID cards as valid ID for voting 
June 17, 2013
Union Leader: House-Senate talks on voter ID bill quickly break down, but agreement still possible 
May 24, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Senate vote would ban student IDs as valid identification during elections
May 14, 2013
Eagle Tribune: NH lawmakers divided over voter ID law
May 8, 2013
Union Leader: Party line votes on Senate panel to change voter ID, registration laws 
April 25, 2013
Union Leader: Stricter voter ID requirements find few fans at hearing
April 24, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Officials, lawmakers, advocates ask panel to toss second phase of voter ID in NH 
Seacoast Online: Anti-voter ID supporters testify in N.H. 
March 24, 2013
Eagle Tribune: Voter ID law comes under attack
March 22, 2013
Eagle Tribune: Voter ID law survives repeal attempt
March 6, 2013
NHPR: House committee OKs repealing next phase of voter ID law
Concord Monitor: NH House panel recommends rolling back new voter ID law
February 16, 2013
Eagle Tribune: NH voter ID law under attack
February 10, 2013
Union Leader: NH in middle of legal feud over voting law
February 6, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Advocates try to kill Voter ID bill before it's fully implemented
January 7, 2013
NHPR: How much does it cost to prevent voter fraud? $16,272 in NH
January 6, 2013
NHPR: ID verification notices to be going out to 7,000 NH voters
November 25, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: About 1 percent of voters didn't show ID on election day; letters to be sent out
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH seeks "bail out" from federal voting law
November 13, 2012
Conway Daily Sun: GOP may consider compromise on voter ID photo requirement
October 10, 2012
Concord Monitor: No ruling on voter registration pre-election
October 8, 2012
Union Leader: Voter ID voucher offered by NH Secretary of State
October 3, 2012
NHPR: Pres. Clinton criticizes NH voter ID law
October 2, 2012 FAQ: How the NH voter ID law will work
October 1, 2012 Voter registration law debated
September 27, 2012
League of Women Voters: A win for college students voting in NH
September 25, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Ruling allows out-of-state students to vote in NH
September 13, 2012
Eagle Tribune: NH sued over voter ID law
September 11, 2012 NH voter ID law stirs passion at the polls
August 26, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Officials looking to September primary as practice run for new voter ID law
August 21, 2012
The Dartmouth: Democrats encourage voter registration
August 3, 2012
Seacoast Online: Voter ID law assistance offered
July 2, 2012
New Hampshire Watchdog: AG Holder could block NH voter ID 
June 28, 2012

Nashua Telegraph: Voter ID law of the land after Legislature overturns Gov. Lynch veto
Concord Monitor: Voter ID, tax credit bill to become law
June 27, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Voter ID, education tax credits among vetoes to be considered Wednesday
June 7, 2012
Concord Monitor: Voter I.D. passes as session closes
June 1, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Voter ID plan would take effect in fall, with tighter restrictions later
May 30, 2012
WMUR: Signs of movement on NH voter bill
May 20, 2012
Seacoast Online: Voter ID bill show Senate, House divide
May 17, 2012

Nashua Telegraph: NH voter ID bill would require photo to vote
May 12, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: House panel likes look of voter ID bill
May 11, 2012
Concord Monitor: Sponsor: Voter ID bill in jeopardy
March 4, 2012

Seacoast Online: N.H. voter ID bill requires photo to vote
Nashua Telegraph: NH Legislature taking up issues of voting reform

February 29, 2012
Laconia Citizen: Senate to vote next week on new voter ID bill
February 27, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Newest Voter ID proposal has surprising momentum (analysis)