NH Clerks Brace For Long Lines As Students Register To Vote

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Town clerks are gearing up for election day. But along the Connecticut River, the time it takes to vote may depend on where you live. That’s because, unlike Vermont, New Hampshire is phasing in a new law that will require voters to show a photo ID in order to get a ballot.  The law has already changed since it was passed, and it’s being challenged in court. But the New Hampshire Supreme Court has put the law on hold at least until after the election.

Meanwhile, students at Dartmouth College recently lined up at a campus barbeque to register to vote. Many of them are critical of the new voter ID law, fearing that it will make it hard for them to cast a ballot. But this year, voting officials explained, they won’t have to show a New Hampshire driver’s license. Other picture ID’s will be accepted.  

That’s a relief to eighteen-year-old Julietta Gervase, a freshman from Buffalo, New York. She’ll vote for the first time this year. She doesn’t have a New Hampshire driver’s license so she handed over her college photo ID. A residence life staffer checked a college computer to verify that she lives – for now – in New Hampshire. So she got on the voter list.

"I’m very excited," she said, as she filled out the registration form.

Now that a judge has thrown out the provision of the new law that seemed to require a New Hampshire driver’s license, Gervase should be able to vote fairly easily, after showing her college ID again on election day.  But anyone who shows up at the polls to register could have a longer wait. If they can’t present a photo ID they must sign an affidavit that they live in New Hampshire. Under state law, any Hanover voter or party representative may challenge the right of anyone else to vote-if they suspect they are not legal residents.  That takes more time. So at Hanover Town Hall, Town Manager Julia Griffin is worried about confusion and congestion.

"You add a thousand or more people registering to vote, numerous challengers, a good voter turnout, the photo identification requirement, some individuals deciding either on principal or because they don’t have a photo id, they can’t present it, you just have a recipe for lines everywhere," she said in her office down the street from the Dartmouth College campus.

Which is why Griffin hoped would-be voters would line up for Dartmouth’s registration drive this week — to beat the rush.

Chris Clark, Vice President of Dartmouth College democrats, was smiling, too. He’s from Kansas, but he will vote in New Hampshire, in part, he says, to get rid of the state’s voter ID law.

"Beginning in 2013 and elections following that, it will again become an issue.  So that’s why it’s important that we make sure to vote not only for the Presidency but in the state legislature as well, to make sure that the people who put these laws into effect in the House aren’t there any more," Clark said.

But J.P. Harrington, who heads Dartmouth College Republicans, worries about voter fraud. He thinks New Hampshire should have the right to restrict voting to people who live in the community-and aren’t just passing through.

"I mean, if you are a student here for nine months and don’t want to get a driver’s license here, you don’t want to change your draft board, you don’t want to change your SSI card to here I think they have the right to say maybe you should vote somewhere else."

If you have to show a picture ID to see the President, Harrington said, you should show one to vote for him, too. He said he’ll be voting in his home state of Colorado.


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