July 12. 2013 11:19PM

Voting & residency: A Shaheen proves a point


U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's daughter Molly inadvertently helped make the case last week for the sort of voter registration law Republicans passed in the last legislative session: one clarifying that only New Hampshire residents may vote in New Hampshire elections.

Molly Shaheen, 28, is co-founder of a business in California. Buzzfeed.com reported last week that the business, a lingerie company called Naked Undies, is actually registered at Sen. Shaheen's Madbury home, though its website describes it as a local Los Angeles-area business.

This newspaper's senior political reporter, John DiStaso, found that Molly Shaheen has regularly voted in New Hampshire elections in recent years, including three elections last year. But doesn't she live in Los Angeles, as her company website and her personal Facebook page say?

"I split my time between New Hampshire and Los Angeles," Shaheen told DiStaso. "I'm not permanent in Los Angeles."

Shaheen said, "I was living at my parents' house when I voted in the last election. And I was in school in San Diego before that."

As long as she did not vote or register to vote in California while she was voting here in New Hampshire, Molly Shaheen did nothing wrong. In fact, she voted exactly the way she should have: at her permanent residence. That is just what Republicans have been saying everyone should do because it is required by law. In the last legislative session, Republicans passed a law clarifying that claiming "domicile" for voting purposes made one a state resident.

The law always intended that link, according to Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat. In an affidavit for a court case in which the residency clarification was challeneged, Gardner wrote last fall, "To suggest that there is a separate definition of 'domicile' for voting purposes is wrong."

In his affidavit, Gardner made this point: "It cannot be that non-residents can somehow claim domicile for voting purposes only and be able to change the foundation of New Hampshire and its government by voting for its lawmakers and proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot."

That is obviously true. Yet Democrats say that one can and should be able to vote in New Hampshire without being a resident of New Hampshire. They claim that requiring people to vote only where they are legal residents disenfranchises them. Was Molly Shaheen disenfranchised by voting in New Hampshire while starting a life in California? Of course not. All that Republicans ask is that everyone vote as the younger Shaheen has. It is hardly a burdensome or unreasonable request.