ThinkProgress

New Hampshire Democrats call out Republicans for attempting to pass ‘poll tax’ on college students

Early morning voters cast their votes at the Bishop Leo E. O'Neil Youth Center on November 8, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. CREDIT: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

New Hampshire’s Senate voted on Tuesday to advance legislation that would require voters to be residents of the state, effectively disenfranchising thousands of college students who are currently considered eligible voters.

All 14 Republicans voted to advance House Bill 372, which would tighten the state’s voter registration requirements to require eligible voters to be legal “residents” of New Hampshire. Current law allows people with a “domicile” in the state to cast a ballot.

In order to declare residency, citizens would have to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and register their cars in the state within 60 days of registering to vote. According to Slate, a driver’s license costs $50 and car registration is even more expensive — leading Democrats and voting advocates to criticize the requirement as a modern-day poll tax.

The bill now moves to the House, which passed a different version of the legislation last year. Gov. John Sununu (R) has expressed his opposition to the measure, although he has not yet promised a veto.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, who has led the opposition to the legislation, has called it “a sly political ploy to stop democracy from happening,” according to New Hampshire’s WMUR. Woodburn also noted that the bill “builds on the myth” propagated by President Trump that there was widespread voter fraud in the state in 2016.

After the 2016 election, New Hampshire became a ripe target for claims of voter fraud, as Hillary Clinton won the swing state and Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) narrowly defeated her Republican opponent. Trump, prominent members of his administration, and members of his voting commission falsely claimed that because thousands of people with out-of-state IDs registered and voted in New Hampshire, massive fraud was able to swing the state’s vote.

In reality, many of the voters with out-of-state IDs were college students who can legally vote in the state where they attend school.

As the narrative gained traction across conservative media and among prominent GOP voting officials, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D), who is also a member of Trump’s voting commission, disputed any claims of fraud. “The result as we have recorded it is real and valid,” he said during the commission’s second meeting, shooting down commission chair Kris Kobach (R)’s narrative.

Yet Republicans in New Hampshire haven’t let that stop them from pushing the legislation to disenfranchise college students.

“We’re trying to fix trust,” Republican state Sen. Andy Sanborn said to justify his vote for the legislation.  “We’re trying to fix accuracy. We’re trying to fix the belief that your vote counts.”

The proposed measure is likely unconstitutional. The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the imposition of poll taxes in federal elections, and the Equal Protection Clause extends that protection to state elections.