Voting & residency NH law worse than Vermont’s
In Maine and Vermont, for example, the law says you can live in the state without being a resident — but you can vote there only if you are a legal resident. In New Hampshire, the law says that if you live here you can vote here, even if you have not established legal residency.
Maine’s election law defines residency as “that place where the person has established a fixed and principal home to which the person, whenever temporarily absent, intends to return.” Its voter registration guide warns: “You should be aware that if you register to vote in Maine, you will be deemed to have declared residency in Maine, which may have consequences for compliance with other Maine laws, including the motor vehicle laws and tax laws.”
The answer, as lawyers for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union mentioned in a column on Friday, is that New Hampshire’s definition of residency is flawed. It states that one must “designate that place of abode as his principal place of physical presence for the indefinite future to the exclusion of all others.” The phrase “indefinite future” was ruled an unconstitutional restriction in the 1972 state Supreme Court case Newberger v. Peterson. Newberger, a Dartmouth student, was not allowed to register as a voter because he said he would return to his home state of Hawaii after graduation.
Why make the change? Because, as Maine’s “voter fact sheet” states, “residence is something that you establish, not something you choose.”