HANOVER — Hanover Town Clerk Elizabeth McClain will be telling people they don’t need a New Hampshire driver’s license to vote or to register to vote in the upcoming elections after receiving communication to that effect from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the secretary of state.
McClain has had questions for a while about HB 1264 and how it relates to registering new voters, and she hasn’t been shy about sharing her concerns. Hanover is home to Dartmouth College and many out-of-state students. “We’re living in a town where there are lots of people who come in from other places; they don’t just grow up here,” McClain said.
McClain’s comments have been part of a wider discussion about the controversial voter registration law.
A letter signed by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Secretary of State William Gardner and Department of Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn sought to clarify McClain’s concerns.
To read the full letter go to unionleader.com.
McClain has fielded questions from dozens of Dartmouth College students about registering to vote. In testimony for the ACLU, which is seeking to stop HB 1264 from being enforced, she said confusion about the law will keep otherwise qualified students from voting.
New Hampshire is one of the only states in the country to allow people who do not live in the state full-time to vote in state elections. New Hampshire law has long allowed people who “domicile,” or take up indefinite residency, in New Hampshire to vote. College students who attend school in New Hampshire but whose legal residence is in another state are the most common people to use the domicile exemption and vote in New Hampshire. HB 1264 removes the phrase “for the indefinite future” from the definition of residency or “principal place of physical presence.”
Gardner, the state’s top election official, has maintained this law doesn’t change any voter registration procedures.
The confusion about HB 1264 is centered on whether people who wish to vote need a New Hampshire driver’s license. The letter from the secretary of state says no such requirement exists for the purposes of voting or registering to vote.
McClain said that for people who are confused about the issue she will be highlighting the final sentence of the letter from the state, which is clear that a driver’s license is not required, residency requirement or no residency requirement.
“It says, ‘No one can be denied the right to register to vote or to vote for failing to meet the requirements of the motor vehicle code,’ ” McClain said. “I’ll be stressing that last sentence.” The letter indicates that the residency requirement to get a license is a requirement of the state’s motor vehicle laws and not the voter registration law, McClain said.
According to the Hanover voter checklist, there are more than 10,000 registered voters in town.
McClain expects to see about 1,000 new voters register on the day of the election. New Hampshire is also one of the only states to allow same-day registration and voting. She said about 90% of the same-day voters are Dartmouth students.