On February 24th, the Election Law Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives held a public hearing on House Bill 176, legislation that would disenfranchise college students from voting in the state. If enacted, the bill would redefine domicile for students and federal government employees as the state in which they claimed domicile before moving to New Hampshire, essentially forcing them to vote absentee in a state where they no longer reside.
Heck, even the College Libertarians joined in.
The Republicans in the House in New Hampshire hoped to prevent college students from voting in the state towns they lived in. The leaders said things like college kids were “foolish” and just “vote their feelings”. They had “a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce.” They voted liberal.
The fact that it was in direct opposition to a Supreme Court ruling apparently made no difference. The Speaker of the House said he could easily ignore any Supreme Court ruling :”“I am asking you to change the law to what it is constitutionally required to be. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of New Hampshire, not particularly to any federal court case.”
So what did the students do? They went to the state capital and told the politicians just how they felt. During the school year, over 100 of them went to Concord. While they waited patiently for 3 hours – resulting in many having to leave – some did get a chance to speak their mind to their elected leaders:
Joshua Denton, of Concord, attends the University of New Hampshire School of Law after growing up in New Jersey.
Denton is using the GI bill after serving in an Army infantry battalion in Iraq.
Seven years ago, he organized all in his unit to vote.
“Tell me to my face, Mr. Speaker, that I lack life experience,” Denton said.
That sure sounds like a reasonable request.
So, today, the House in New Hampshire did something that a few years ago would have been mundane but today needs to be highlighted – they listened to the people who descended upon the Capitol. The legislation that would have restricted the ability of students to vote was not passed out of committee. It is not dead with some hoping they can bring it back next year. But the student’s activism changed the discourse.
The officials smartly realized that an issue that united students of all political stripes against a partisan measure was probably not in the best interests of the politicos.
Shows that peaceful assembly and petitioning elected officials can still result in political success in America. I hope there is more of this occurs.