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2012 voter registration law null — for now

July 25. 2014 9:10PM

CONCORD — The Secretary of State’s Office said Friday the decision by Strafford County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker means there will be no change in the current voter registration forms.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said the disputed language change for voter registration forms — passed by the Legislature in 2012 and challenged in court by four University of New Hampshire students and the League of Women Voters as unconstitutional — was never implemented.

A preliminary injunction was granted by a different Strafford County judge, and the state Supreme Court let the ruling stand in October 2012.

Under Senate Bill 318, anyone registering to vote would have to acknowledge he or she was a resident and have to register his or her car in the state and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license within 60 days.The bill, making “residency” and “domicile” the same thing would have disenfranchised college students and other people who working and living in the state but not intending it make it a permanent residence.

Then-House Speaker Bill O’Brien had supported changing the registration law primarily to prevent students from outside New Hampshire but attend college in the state from being allowed to vote in New Hampshire college towns.

He argued college students tend to vote liberal. He was quoted as telling a group of conservatives: “They don’t have life experience and they just vote their feelings.”The judge wrote that RSA 651:1 states every inhabitant of the state, having a single established domicile for voting purposes, being a citizen and meeting the age requirement, has a right to vote.

But the intention to change that domicile at some future time, does not terminate the established domicile and thus, wrote Tucker: “… a citizen must be a domiciliary but not necessarily a resident of New Hampshire in order to vote.”

The students had sought a declaratory ruling that a section of the registration form violates state and federal Constitutions and the state, through Secretary of State William Gardner, had also sought summary judgment through a cross motion.

Motions were heard May 20, and Judge Tucker issued his ruling Thursday.

Scanlan said the Secretary of State will have to consult with attorneys in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to determine whether to take any further legal action.

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