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Primary 2020: New voting laws don’t dissuade turnout of college students

  • Members of the Dartmouth alpine ski team register to vote at the Hanover polls on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Hanover, N.H. Filling out their forms are Claire Thomas, left, Abi Jewett, Bri Trudeau and Gwen Wattenmaker. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Carter Mills of Washington, D.C., a volunteer for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, stands outside the polls at Hanover High School on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Primary voters check in to receive their ballots at the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Deputy Town Clerk Jill Potter updates information at the polls in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A sticker that lost its jacket outside the polls at Hanover High School on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 2/11/2020 10:13:50 PM
Modified: 2/12/2020 12:16:34 AM

HANOVER — New Hampshire’s new residency law appeared to have little effect on Tuesday on voter turnout in the college town of Hanover, where election officials say they fielded few questions on the matter. Still, turnout numbers decreased slightly since the last New Hampshire presidential primary, in 2016.

The first-in-the-nation primary attracted 5,657 people to vote at Hanover High School, according to preliminary figures.

That’s 305 people less than four years ago, when both parties saw hotly contested primary races.

Meanwhile, town election officials say they registered 1,020 new voters on Tuesday.

“Frankly, I wanted to break (turnout numbers from) four years ago. We bumped up against it but we didn’t surpass it,” Town Clerk Betsy McClain said. “As my colleague pointed out, we had an incumbent running this year as opposed to four years ago there was no incumbent. So that’s a positive.”

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg handily won in Hanover, with 1,397, more than 300 votes ahead of both U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, according to unofficial results.

On the Republican ballot, President Donald Trump garnered 161 votes to defeat former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who won 91 votes.

Tuesday’s primary was the first statewide election since the residency law, HB 1264, took effect.

The law, which is being challenged in federal court by two Dartmouth students, amended the state’s definition of “domiciled” so that people who cast ballots in elections also are subject to residency laws.

Students who register to vote must now obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and register their vehicle within 60 days, if they plan to drive in the state, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

“I got one question about it (HB 1264) today,” McClain said. “We registered over a thousand people today, many of those students, and I did not hear anybody express concern about declaring their residency here by registering to vote.”

Katie Smith, director of communications for the Dartmouth College Democrats, said the group focused its efforts combating “misinformation” about the law by circulating educational materials.

“A lot of students believe that they couldn’t vote in New Hampshire or that there is something going on that made it hard for them to vote,” Smith, who hails from Texas, said outside Hanover High School.

Dartmouth students registering to vote on Tuesday were asked for a college ID or driver’s license. The college ID would then be handed to a member of the school’s residential life staff, who would scan it to verify that voter’s residence.

McClain, who has testified against the residency law, said at midday that there had been no trouble registering Dartmouth students. Election officials were equipped with information in case voters had questions, though.

“It doesn’t seem to me that the (residency law) had any effect,” said Gigi Gunderson, a Dartmouth junior and communications director of the New Hampshire College Democrats.

Gunderson credited public outreach efforts for Tuesday’s turnout, saying she is “so impressed and so excited with the number of students who have come out to vote.”

Margaret Hubble, a Dartmouth junior and Kansas native, registered to vote in Hanover during the 2018 midterms.

College students sometimes take the time to learn about voting laws and any confusion regarding voting requirements would make it harder for them to vote, said Hubble, a Democrat who wrote in former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the ballot.

“My parents just moved and I don’t really care about the state they moved to,” she said. “If I was registered in Kansas still I’d probably vote there, but I can’t.”

Dartmouth student Will Frohlich, 19, also said he registered to vote in Hanover during last year’s midterm election. Voting on Tuesday, he said, was a “quick and easy process.”

Frohlich, a Washington state native, added that he’s still not sure whether he will have to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license.

“I guess we’ll see in the upcoming weeks,” he said.

New London officials also mounted get-out-the-vote efforts, visiting Colby-Sawyer College twice before the primary, according to Town Moderator Michael Todd.

But turnout at the polls in New London was low on Tuesday morning, possibly because of bad weather and difficult traveling conditions, Todd said.

A morning crash on Interstate 89 south closed the highway been exits 11 and 12 and “sidewalks and streets around here are treacherous,” he said.

Colby-Sawyer student Rebecca Thomas, 20, still managed to walk to Whipple Town Hall to cast her vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The Hinsdale, N.H., native said registering to vote was “super easy.”

However, at least one high school student attempting to register in Grantham faced difficulty ahead of the primary.

Andrew Gamble, a social studies teacher at Lebanon High School, said one of his students brought their driver’s license to register but was told to come back with a note from their parents and a utility bill proving residency.

Grantham Town Moderator Lorie McClory said on Tuesday that an employee in the town clerk’s office made a mistake and didn’t know the student could fill out an affidavit attesting to their residency.

The student, she said, was registered and on the voter rolls for the primary.

“We have not turned away anyone who has come to register to vote either before the deadline or today,” McClory said via phone. “No one has been turned away.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223. Rohan Chakravarty can be reached at rchakravarty@vnews.com.




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