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Student IDs: Not this again

A compromise in the last legislative session led to this deal: College student IDs would not be accepted under the state’s voter ID law in the 2012 election, but would be accepted in future elections. A Senate committee voted last week to strip the specific statutory reference to student IDs, making them not automatically accepted by law. Why are we rehashing this?

Some Republicans would prefer that college students not vote because college students tend to be rather liberal as a group. Naturally, Democrats want as many college students as possible to vote. There is a serious legal issue at stake here. But it involves residency, not student IDs.

The parties have fought for years over how to define residency for voting purposes. Should out-of-state college students who live in New Hampshire during the school year, but who retain their legal residency in their home state, be allowed to vote here? It seems pretty obvious that the answer should be “no.” You vote where you are a legal resident. But that is an entirely different issue than whether the state should accept student IDs.

The arguments against accepting student IDs are weak. Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, has a compromise proposal: Accept IDs from state schools because they were issued by a state agency, and leave it up to moderators whether to accept private school IDs. That is asking for legal trouble. The goal of the ID requirement is to discourage fraud by requiring a valid photo ID. School IDs do the trick. Accept them and move on to another issue.

Eric Church
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