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Residency reform: Partisans are overselling SB 3

A long overdue clarification to New Hampshire’s election laws has become a political football in Concord.

The state Constitution allows anyone with a “domicile” in New Hampshire to register to vote. But no one knows what domicile means, and the current law is confusing. Senate Bill 3 would clarify how local election officials could verify that a voter actually lives here. It would also establish a 30-day residency requirement, similar to most other states.

Republicans supporting the bill in hopes of gaining some partisan advantage in college towns by preventing out-of-state students from voting will be disappointed. Should SB 3 pass, the GOP is not going to sweep Durham, Hanover, and Keene in the 2018 election.

Democrats are riling up college students with the specious argument that they wouldn’t be welcome in New Hampshire, hoping to spark protests. Given the stunning political ignorance on campuses these days, it’s a safe bet.

Yet nothing in SB 3 would prevent a college student from declaring New Hampshire residency and casting a ballot. Freshmen might not arrive in time for the September primary, but could certainly register for the November general election. In fact, attending college is one of the criteria that could be used to establish residency.

SB 3 clarifies a confusing, unenforceable law. Democrats would keep our voting booths open to anyone passing through. That right should be reserved for the people of New Hampshire.

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