CONCORD — Dozens of college students descended on the state capitol building Tuesday, pressing their case for reversal of Republican-passed election laws that they say impede their right to vote.
Ten were arrested on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct when they refused to leave the offices of Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner after closing time.
The students were booked in the State House cafeteria and released. They’ll face fines, but no jail time.
“We’re here to show Gov. Sununu and Secretary of State Gardner that we’re not going anywhere and that the student vote is important,” said Quincy Abramson, a UNH student from Concord. “They can’t drown out our voices, and in the upcoming election we will show them that.”
Tuesday’s protest included a rally on the State House plaza, presentation of petitions to the governor and secretary of state and testimony at legislative hearings.
“Students want to get involved in their communities and make the state a better place, but when we pass restrictive legislation like HB 1264, we stop them from making a difference,” said Dartmouth College student Garrett Muscatel, a state representative from Hanover.
“That’s why I’m here to tell Secretary Gardner and Gov. Sununu to make our voting process fair and make ensure that everyone who wants to make a difference in this state has that opportunity,” he told students gathered in the hallway that connects the governor and secretary of state offices.
The students engaged in protest songs and heard from several other speakers, including Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, whose district includes UNH and Keene State.
He alluded to three election-related initiatives that are high on the Democratic caucus agenda for 2019.
“Most people think of three challenges when it comes to voting,” he said, “A poll tax on students, gerrymandering and not having no-fault absentee voting. The fourth problem is the arrogance of people who won’t listen to you. So thanks for being here and standing up not only for your voting rights but for the voting rights of others.”
The protest was organized by a coalition of three groups —NextGen New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Young Democrats and the New Hampshire Youth Movement, which branded the event a “State House Youth Agenda Takeover.”
In their testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on the state budget, the activists called for additional state funding for the University System of New Hampshire.
Members of NH Youth Movement occupied the offices of Sununu and Gardner in planned acts of civil disobedience.
The three groups previously delivered what they called a “Youth Agenda” to the State House, calling on the governor and legislature to address climate change, college affordability and voting rights.
The students were there on Tuesday largely in support of legislation repealing new election laws that changed the requirements for voter identification and proof of residency.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, describes the election bills passed in the last two years as common-sense measures that made New Hampshire law consistent with voting requirements in other states.
HB 1264 changed the definitions of resident to make voting in New Hampshire a declaration of residency, thus requiring a change of driver’s license and motor vehicle registration within 60 days of voting.
SB 3 changed the procedures for voter verification, particularly for those trying to register within 30 days of an election.
The bill to repeal the definition of residency law, HB 106, passed the House 213-154, while the bill to repeal the voter verification law, passed 209-155, both along party lines. They are now before the Senate and if they pass there, Sununu has his veto pen at the ready.