FOR THE LAST several years, I have had the privilege of teaching civics to high school students in New Hampshire. Every year I try to instill in my students the value of voting, and nothing makes me prouder than seeing their enthusiasm as they look forward to turning 18 and getting their chance to participate in our country’s democracy. They know that the Granite State plays a huge and unique role in the selection of every U.S. president given its first-in-the-nation primary, and I like to to think that they take this responsibility seriously.
This is why it troubles me to know that many of my students will face difficulties registering to vote or casting votes by mail from their future college campus, all because a few politicians have put partisan gamesmanship ahead of their patriotic duty. The right to vote shouldn’t be partisan in the first place, and yet there are dozens of bills currently moving in Concord that would make it harder for students and working people to vote. We owe it to these students to live up to the same civic ideals we teach them by rejecting these proposals.
A wave of voter suppression in dozens of states unprecedented in its scale since the height of the Jim Crow era is taking place across the country, and New Hampshire is sadly among the worst of them all with more anti-voting bills advancing in our State House than in any other state. Following a now well-known playbook, several of them would target college students and make it harder for many of them to vote by disallowing students from using their educational institution as their legal residence for voting purposes. Other measures would eliminate or restrict election day voter registration, increase voter ID requirements for absentee ballots, and purge registered voters from the rolls based on (often faulty) third-party data.
These college students are an essential part of the fabric of our community and deserve to have their voices heard.
My family and I moved last October, and my wife was unable to update her registration before election day. New Hampshire’s same-day registration law made the difference between voting and not voting for her. But now, the state legislature is trying to eliminate same-day registration entirely. Voting in New Hampshire can already be difficult for those of us working multiple jobs to make ends meet. We only have one day to vote in New Hampshire, and local elections that do not fall on election day are even more challenging to participate in when days off are usually not a possibility. Why make voting harder?
There are similar bills under consideration all across the country, with some even already having become law at this point. This is why we need Congress to act. We need the For the People Act to protect everyone’s right to vote and have their vote counted. To help make our system more fair, representative, and accountable to the people. The act would require every state to offer same-day voter registration and 15 days of early voting. It would reduce the power of big money in politics and modernize our elections. Most of all, it would stop new restrictions that we are seeing in New Hampshire and in other states.
This is why our state lawmakers and Governor Chris Sununu must reject suppressive voting bills and expand — not restrict — access to the ballot box. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan have already said they support the For the People Act, and they must remain steadfast in their commitment to repair our democracy.
I don’t want to have to tell my students that the ideals I teach them in class aren’t what is really practiced by our leaders. I also don’t want to have to break the news that they will face new tougher barriers when it comes to voting as they attend college or move to a new community for a job opportunity in the future. Let’s make these students proud of us and ensure that the pillars of our democracy they learn about in 11th grade civics class stand strong.
The more voices we allow to be heard, the more representative our government becomes. This is the foundational principle of democracy, after all, and upholding it will only end up benefiting us.