ACLU challenges New Hampshire law targeting student voters

By agency reporter
February 14, 2019

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Hampshire have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a New Hampshire law that unconstitutionally restricts the right to vote for students, young people, and those new to the state.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of two Dartmouth College students who will be required to pay for New Hampshire driver’s licences if they vote in the next election. If they do not, they could face criminal penalties. The law, HB 1264, burdens their right to vote and acts as a 'poll tax' by requiring new voters to shift their home state driver’s licences and registrations to New Hampshire – which can add up to hundreds of dollars – solely for exercising their right to vote.  

“Under this law, I have to pay to change my California licence to be a New Hampshire one. If I vote and don’t change my licence within 60 days, I could even be charged with a misdemeanour offence with up to one year in jail. Make no mistake – this is meant to deter young people from participating in our elections, and students are an important voting bloc here”, said Maggie Flaherty, one of the student plaintiffs.

The lawsuit cites a violation of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971. Its aim was not only to allow young people to vote, but also to encourage voting by eliminating obstacles.

“Some politicians are clearly terrified of the youth vote”, said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “That doesn’t give them the right to create barriers.”

College students' right to vote in New Hampshire has been under attack for decades. As far back as 1972, the ACLU successfully challenged a law that tried to stop college students from voting if they planned to leave the state after graduation.

“Our laws should ensure that it’s easy for eligible people to vote – not put up red tape and require hundreds of dollars in fees”, said Henry Klementowicz, staff attorney with the ACLU of New Hampshire. “Sadly, this is the latest in a string of laws New Hampshire has enacted making voting more complicated, time consuming, and, with HB1264, expensive.”

The lawsuit, Casey v. Gardner, was filed in U.S. District Court in Concord. It names Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald as defendants.

* Read the legal document here

* American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org/

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