While Molly Kelly was on stage in Nashua struggling to make her case against Gov. Chris Sununu in a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored debate, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown was handing her and her fellow Democrats a big win by striking down SB 3.
The law, which required voters to use documents to demonstrate that they are “domiciled” where they intend to vote, was shot down by Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown on Monday, and Democrats couldn’t be more “pleased.”
“I’m pleased that the New Hampshire Superior Court has issued an injunction against SB 3 which made voting more confusing for many eligible voters. We need a governor who’ll protect our right to vote, not put barriers in place to this fundamental right,” Molly Kelly said in a statement.
“We are very pleased with the court’s order enjoining SB 3 in its entirety. The order sends a strong message that voter suppression tactics will not be tolerated in New Hampshire,” the state party’s attorney William Christie told WMUR.
Democrats should be pleased, pleased as punch, because this issue is a winner for them among a key demographic they’re counting on November 6th: college students.
“This ruling absolutely helps Democrats ,which is why the Democrat Party spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight it,” GOP strategist Michael Dennehy tells NHJournal. “The Democrats don’t want college kids to have to prove their residency before they vote. It’s shameful that the ‘First In the Nation’ Primary doesn’t have a residency law for voting.”
The status of out-of-state college students is at the center of the ongoing debate over voting laws in the Granite State, and Judge Brown specifically mentioned them in his ruling, claiming: “A number of New Hampshire college students testified to being confused or intimidated by the forms.”
Whether this is an indictment of the state’s voting system or the quality of its colleges is an open question. However, this ruling is without a doubt a win for New Hampshire Democrats because it re-focuses attention on an issue they were already hoping would drive up turnout among college students and young progressives.
New Hampshire voters as a whole support ballot security and the SB3-increased ID requirements in particular. A UNH Granite State poll taken one year ago showed Granite Staters support the new law by a 2-to-1 margin, 54-20 percent. However, liberals and college students (and yes, there’s quite a bit of overlap there) absolutely hate it, and they’re the voters most likely to be motivated to turn out based on this issue. And Democrats have been working for more than a year to turn them out.
NextGen America, a group founded and funded by progressive, pro-impeachment billionaire Tom Steyer, has been working for months organizing turnout among New Hampshire’s college students–many of whom are eligible voters in other states. “Young voters … are essential to propelling progressives to victory in 2018 and beyond,” Steyer said earlier this year. He has spent more than $33 million recruiting and training campus activists across the country, people like Next Gen’s New Hampshire media manager Kristen Morris.
When news of the judge’s ruling against SB3 broke, Morris tweeted: “Huge victory for student voting rights in New Hampshire! The
#youthvote can’t be stopped.”
This isn’t just youthful enthusiasm. NextGen New Hampshire likes to point out that they increased turnout in their targeted college precincts in 2016 by more than the margin of victory for Sen. Maggie Hassan over incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte. In fact, Morris measures NextGen’s successes in units of “Maggie Hassans:”
we’re less than four weeks out, so we decided to start tracking our progress to goal in Maggie Hassan’s
(she won by 1,017 votes in 2016 because the #youthvote turned out big time)
so with over 15,255 pledges to vote collected to date, I give you: 15 Maggie’s pic.twitter.com/WS0Nlghboj
— Kristen Morris (@kristenvmorris) October 11, 2018
Given that New Hampshire has the highest per capita population of college students in the country — about 11 percent of the Granite State’s population –and a significant percentage of those students are residents of other states — this is a serious political issue in such a small, and purple, state. And it’s also fair to ask if democracy is best served by voters who must be lured to the polls with the promise of puppies.
“This ruling clearly hurts residents of New Hampshire whose votes are diluted by non-residents and electoral tourists,” former NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien tells NHJournal. “Those non-resident votes may be for one party or another, but taken together these nonresidents are telling citizens of New Hampshire that they don’t get the final word on who will be representing them locally, or in state government or Congress.”