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Primary Source: Look for Energy at N.H. Polls

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

With primary voting taking place on Tuesday in New Hampshire, activist groups are working to remind people that they still can vote relatively problem-free, and that a new state law that changes the definition of domicile doesn’t take effect until next year.

Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund investor from California who supports environmental causes and the impeachment of President Donald Trump, was at the University of New Hampshire and Manchester Community College on Wednesday, rallying younger voters in a “Need to Vote” town hall.

Steyer, who backed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his surprise victory in Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, also is the major backer of NextGen America, which is working to get millions of younger voters across the country to the polls.

NextGen America targeted first-year students at Dartmouth College on move-in day on Wednesday, letting them know they have a right to vote in the state if they are at least 18, an American citizen and domiciled in the state. Another such day is planned for Sunday.

NextGen also is making a point of telling students that HB 1264, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in July in what Democrats assert will take away voting rights, won’t take effect until 2019. The legislation effectively changes New Hampshire’s definition of domicile to align with residency, in a way that the ACLU says will impose motor-vehicle fees on students who grew up in other states.

“The biggest hurdle we are facing is lack of information. I’ve already talked to so many Dartmouth students who think their voting rights have been taken away. We are going to be on campus every single day to make sure students know that they can still exercise their constitutional right to vote,” NextGen Dartmouth organizer Emma Bliska said in a statement provided by the group.

Hanover Town Clerk Betsy McClain also noted that the change won’t take place until next year, and that the Supervisors of the Checklist have planned two on-campus voter registration drives open to the general public, one on Oct. 3 and the other on Oct 17.

McClain also said the same-day voter registration process could take a bit longer on Tuesday because of another new law in the state, SB 3, which effectively removed the use of an affidavit that allowed new voters to attest to a New Hampshire domicile if they didn’t have the proper paperwork in hand.

Now, McClain said, there is a somewhat confusing “verifiable action of domicile” process if registrants can’t present proof of their Hanover domicile address.

“We have arranged for Dartmouth’s Office of Residential Life to be there for some of the day next Tuesday to confirm on-campus undergraduate residency; however, we anticipate that there may be students and others without signed leases, utility bills, and the like with whom the Supervisors of the Checklist will have to walk through the Verifiable Action of Domicile process — hopefully, this will be a manageable number, and any registration queues will keep on moving,” McClain said via email.

Given the energy seen in some other primaries — including in Massachusetts on Tuesday, where Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley defeated U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass. — look for turnout to be strong next week.

Pressley is poised to become the first female African-American member of Congress from Massachusetts after defeating Capuano, a 20-year incumbent and 1973 Dartmouth College graduate.

“Clearly the district wanted a lot of change,” Capuano said, also referring to two local incumbents who were defeated. “And apparently the district just is very upset with lots of things that are going on. I don’t blame them. I’m just as upset as they are, but so be it. This is the way life goes.”

Capuano, a former mayor of Somerville, Mass., ended his short concession speech by telling supporters “you are all invited down to the Caribbean to have a drink on the beach with me.”

Briefly Noted

■U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., spent much of his 30 minutes on Wednesday questioning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about what he might have known about private emails stolen from Leahy and other Democratic senators by a Republican Judiciary Committee aide between 2001 and 2003, when Kavanaugh helped the Bush administration with judicial nominees. Kavanaugh said he was unaware the emails and other communication had been hacked.

■The New Hampshire Legislature next week takes up Sununu’s veto of a biomass bill that would help woodchip burning plants. But some environmental groups said an override also could benefit trash-burning plants and lead to more air pollution.

■Sullivan County Republicans are planning a “Legacy Memorial BBQ” on Saturday on the Town Common in Newport for the public to meet candidates and enjoy a barbecue lunch. Tickets are $10 per person for the fundraiser, $5 for children 13 and under. It runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.