Student Vote - Issue Summary

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

student vote

By: LFDA Editor


The issue of New Hampshire students and their right to vote has been on the discussion table for quite some time, and laws to change voting rights have been proposed and processed in the legislature nearly every session.

In 1972, a federal judge in New Hampshire enacted a law that forbid the state from banning students’ votes while they were living in the state. This ruling also allowed military personnel and temporary workers to vote while living in New Hampshire. 

In recent years, several bills have come through the legislature, each with a different tactic at changing the laws to define who can and who cannot legally vote in the state. These laws directly affect those attending colleges and universities in our state. 

Proponents of these voter laws argue that students are skewing the vote in college towns, and earning the towns more liberal elected officials based on the weight of their votes. They say that the students are not permanent residents, and do not have the right to vote.

Opponents of laws mean 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 there for nine months out of the year, is equivalent to voter suppression. 

Students make up a large portion of the population in several towns in New Hampshire, including Durham, Keene, Hanover, and Plymouth.  


HB 176

In 2011, HB 176 proposed a definition for the word “domicile,” declaring that for voters attending institutions of learning a domicile would be defined as “the state, or the town, city, ward, or unincorporated place in New Hampshire, in which such person had his or her domicile immediately prior to matriculation, even though such person may no longer reside in said state, town, city, ward, or unincorporated place, and even though his or her intent to return thereto is uncertain. The domicile for voting purposes of a person attending an institution of learning shall not be the place where the institution is located unless the person was domiciled in that place prior to matriculation.”

A student from Beverly, Mass., living in a Durham apartment and attending the University of New Hampshire would not be eligible to vote under this bill. 

The bill was struck down in March 2011. 

HB 1478 

Passed by the House in March 2012 but laid on the table by the Senate in May, HB 1478 declares that to declare residency in New Hampshire, a person may not declare residency in any other location with regard to car registration and driver’s licenses. The bill text states that “a person who declares an address in a New Hampshire town or ward as his or her domicile for voting purposes shall be deemed to have established his or her residence for motor vehicle law purposes at that address.” 

SB 289

On June 27, 2012, SB 289 was passed, setting up regulations requiring residents to show identification prior to voting in a town, state, or federal election. The bill had been vetoed by Gov. Lynch on June 21, and was overridden by the House (231 to 112) and Senate (18 to 5). Lynch had vetoed the on grounds that it was “far more restrictive than necessary.” The House and Senate found the bill to be within constitutional limits. 

Supporters of the law believe that this law will reduce voter fraud and argue that we are required to show ID in other situations (checking into a hotel, purchasing tobacco), so this is a common occurrence. Opponents believe it is a form of discrimination toward not just students, but to the elderly and low-income residents – groups least likely to be in possession of an ID form. 

For the period between the bill’s passing and September 2013 (considered a trial run, and a time to educate voters), people wishing to vote without identification must sign a “challenged voter affidavit,” confirming their identity and have their picture taken and affixed to the affidavit. The state will the contact these people individually over the following 90 days to have them confirm that they did vote. 

The law also means that student IDs will no longer be accepted as a valid form of identification beginning in September 2013. Only a driver’s license, state-issued non-driver's identification card, military ID, or passport will be accepted from that point forward. Any documents more than 5 years old will not be accepted at all.

For students to vote in future elections, they must declare a domicile in New Hampshire, which also requires registering vehicles in New Hampshire and obtaining a New Hampshire driver’s license (see HB 1478).

The NH Secretary of State offers a voucher to obtain a free ID voucher for people who don’t have identification that falls under the new requirements. Vouchers come from city and town clerk offices and can be redeemed at the DMV. 

A similar law, HB 356, was presented in 2011 but was tabled for interim study and not pursued.

HB 1354

Also on June 27, HB 1354 was adopted, allowing for voters to submit the challenged voter affidavit in order to vote (originally a “qualified” voter affidavit), and deems it a fraudulent charge to falsify any information on this affidavit.

According to the Nashua Telegraph, during the Sept. 11 primary, “roughly seven percent of 7 percent of voters around the state did not show a photo ID prior to voting, which would translate to about 49,000 people based on the 700,000 voters who participated in the 2008 presidential election.”

SB 318

Yet another bill passed June 27 (an override of the governor’s veto) places the following terminology on voter registration forms in the state of New Hampshire. By signing the voter registration form, a voter attests to the following:

“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.”

In practice

US Attorney General Eric Holder’s approval was required and obtained for the Department of Justice to enforce any election-related laws that would affect certain New Hampshire communities, per the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

To prepare for these new laws, in particular SB 289 (requiring the presentation of identification at the polls), training sessions for election workers were conducted prior to the September 11, 2012 primary. According to the Eagle Tribune, about one-third of election workers attended this training. 

On primary day, election workers were asked to test the new system of asking for identification, and allowing voters without ID to fill out a challenged voter affidavit. However, complaints arose from voters about being denied the right to vote, being harassed at registration, and failing to learn about the affidavit option when registering. About 7 percent of voters did not have photo identification to provide.  

On election day, Nov. 6, 2012, about 1% of New Hampshire voters, or 7,000 people, declined to show identification and filled out challenged voter affidavits. They had 90 days to respond to verification forms sent by the Secretary of State Office, confirming that they did, in fact, vote on election day and fill out the affidavit. An investigation can ensue against voters who do not return the form.

Current debate

SB 318 has been the focus of the student vote debate, resulting in the state of New Hampshire being sued and the law being struck down by Judge John Lewis of Stafford County Superior Court.

The League of Women Voters pressed to sue the state on Sept. 12, 2012, asserting that the new law is discriminatory to students.  As quoted in the Eagle Tribune, elect law specialist for the league Joan Ashwell said, "We believe the law is a deliberate attempt to keep college students who have a constitutional right to vote while they attend school in New Hampshire from exercising that right in the fall elections.” The challenge by the League of Women Voters was supported by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. 

On Sept. 23, Judge Lewis ruled that the League of Women Voters had a valid argument. The law was struck down and will reportedly be appealed by the Attorney General’s office. 

Under the original law, when a voter went to register, they had to agree to be subject to the same laws as a resident, as in, registering their car and getting a New Hampshire license. 

Students would have to change residency, which brings in additional issues. This ultimately involves students having to pay a fee (to register a car and get a license) in order to vote – a poll tax, to opponents of the law. 

The repeal of the law means that students do not have to declare that they intend to remain in New Hampshire after graduation, and are not subject to registering their car or obtaining a New Hampshire driver’s license. 

As the Concord Monitor explains, “The rights of those who are ‘domiciled’ compared with ‘residents’ are at the heart of the dispute over SB 318. The difference between the two is largely a state of mind: Both spend the bulk of their time here, but residents intend to stay indefinitely and those domiciled do not.”

House Speaker Bill O’Brien, an advocate for preventing students from voting, argues that allowing students to vote changes the outcome of elections for NH residents and takes away their rights to decide fully the outcome of the elections. 

Secretary of State Bill Gardner argues that SB 318 does not violate the 1972 law because no person is asked to give an indefinite intention to stay in the state. 

Foster's Daily Democrat reported that a trial is set for February 2014 to review SB 318 to determine what language is allowed to be used on voter registration forms. 

2013 Legislation

HB 595 was proposed in the 2013 legislation. The bill would repeal parts of the voter ID regulations that were set to go into effect September 1, 2013. Passed by the House, the new law would mean that a person without photo identification at the polls would not be required to be photographed and to sign an affidavit, and that a poll worker may serve as confirmation of someone's identification if they are on familiar terms. Opponents of the laws going into effect in September cite the increased cost, poll worker involvement, and time it would take to implement the measures. 

The Senate voted in May 2013 to reduce the number of acceptable IDs from seven to four, removing student IDs from the acceptable documents, and to delay the use of photos along with affidavits until September 2015.

In June 2013, the House and Senate came to a resolution, amending the bill to allow New Hampshire student IDs as a valid form of identification at the polls. The ID must have a photograph of the holder and be issued by an approved or licensed institution.

Gov. Hassan signed the bill into law on July 24, 2013. 

2014 Legislation

In 2014 Sen. David Pierce (D-Etna) is sponsoring SB 206, which requires anyone objecting to a voter's identification to provide evidence that the ID does not prove the voter's identity. SB 206 was passed with amendment by the Senate in March and now heads to the House. Sen. Sam Cataldo (R-Farmington) is sponsoring SB 284, which says that students paying out-of-state tuition at UNH can not claim New Hampshire as a domicile for voting purposes. 

Rep. Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) is sponsoring HB 1506, which removes career school student ID from the list of acceptable voter identification. The bill was voted inexpedient to legislate.

Rep. Daniel Itse (R-Fremont) is sponsoring HB 1255, a 2014 bill that makes any student with their name on a voter checklist eligible for in-state tuition.  Itse is also sponsoring HB 1505, which requires the University of New Hampshire to indicate whether a student is in-state or out-of-state on each ID card. Both bills were voted inexpedient to legislate in February.

SB 374 would establish a commission to review and make recommendations to standardize and make uniform the definitions of “domicile” and “residency” in state statutes. SB 374 was adopted by the Senate in March and now heads to the House.

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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

SB 289: Governor’s veto overridden by House and Senate in June 2012. The law is in effect.

HB 1354: Adopted with amendment by Senate and House concurred in June 2012.

SB 318: Originally vetoed by the governor and overridden by the House and Senate, this bill went into effect 8/26/12. Voter rights groups are currently fighting it; a trial is set for February 2014.

HB 595: Adopted by the House and Senate; signed by Gov. Hassan on July 24, 2013.

In 2014 Sen. David Pierce (D-Etna) is sponsoring SB 206, which requires anyone objecting to a voter's identification to provide evidence that the ID does not prove the voter's identity. It was passed by the Senate in March. Sen. Sam Cataldo (R-Farmington) is sponsoring SB 284, which says that students paying out-of-state tuition at UNH can not claim New Hampshire as a domicile for voting purposes.

Rep. Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) is sponsoring HB 1506, which removes career school student ID from the list of acceptable voter identification. The bill was voted inexpedient to legislate by the House in February.

Rep. Daniel Itse (R-Fremont) is sponsoring HB 1255, a 2014 bill that makes any student with their name on a voter checklist eligible for in-state tuition.  Itse is also sponsoring HB 1505, which requires the University of New Hampshire to indicate whether a student is in-state or out-of-state on each ID card. Both bills were voted inexpedient to legislate in February.


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)