Ben Kremer: How it feels to be lied to by the governor

For the Monitor
Published: 8/11/2018 7:21:45 PM

I’m that guy who Gov. Chris Sununu promised to that he would never sign HB 1264. He signed it, going back on his word to me and the young people of New Hampshire.

As an organizer with the New Hampshire Youth Movement, I’ve had my fair share of interactions with the Granite State’s elected officials. Honestly, most of them were uninspiring and felt insincere.

When asking questions, I’ve been dodged, run away from, and referred to secretaries countless times.

In December, I had an interaction with Gov. Sununu that wasn’t like that – or so I thought.

That day was the first time I heard of a bill that really concerned me – it would require people like myself (someone who recently moved to this state to attend college) to buy a New Hampshire driver’s license and car registration in order to vote here.

I knew from the beginning that this bill would be bad for New Hampshire. It would make young people feel unwelcome, something we don’t need in an aging state, and it would discourage them from voting. Coincidentally, Gov. Sununu was speaking at an event in Manchester that same day. Even though it was finals week, some friends and I set out to ask him how he felt about the bill.

I got my chance to speak with him after the event. I told him my story and my concerns. Before I could even finish my question, he interrupted me, saying that he “hated” the bill, agreeing that it would suppress the student vote, and asserting that he hoped the “Legislature kills it.” When asked if he would ever support this legislation, or any form similar to it, he said, “I will never

support anything that suppresses the student vote. End of story.”

He sealed his promise with a handshake and a smile.

I walked away from that conversation feeling good. I had never really felt heard by an elected official like I had felt heard by Gov. Sununu that day. I was starting to feel hopeful that my community’s concerns would be taken into consideration.

Soon, however, Gov. Sununu started to waver on his promise to me and so many other young people throughout the state. The New Hampshire Youth Movement and The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights fought tooth and nail to hold him to his word.

We collected thousands of petition signatures in opposition to the bill. Hundreds of people called his office. More than 30 young people traveled to the State House to share their stories and write letters to the governor. It was a massive mobilization of young people across the state in opposition to the bill.

Seven months after promising the young people of New Hampshire that he would “never support anything that suppresses the student vote,” Gov. Sununu quietly signed HB 1264.

He signed a bill he had agreed would suppress the student vote, is bad for retaining young people in New Hampshire and is just flat out unnecessary.

This story is a crystal clear example of how, far too often, our elected officials prove how they do not represent us and our values. Our message to Gov. Sununu could not have been mopre clear, yet he signed a bad bill anyway. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that he simply doesn’t care about us. If he cared, this story would have ended when he promised to veto HB 1264. He promised his constituents something and did the exact opposite.

We need to do something about this blatant lack of representation in our state. What do we do?

We vote. We vote for leaders who represent us and our values. We share our stories with our friends, neighbors, and representatives. We hold our leaders accountable to what they promise.

Midterm elections are coming up in November – I hope you think of this story when you fill out your ballot.

Our vote is our voice. We need to say loud and clear: We will not stand for elected officials who don’t support us. Gov. Sununu and lawmakers like him do not support the people of New Hampshire. Come November, we must let them know that we will not stand for it.

(Ben Kremer is a UNH student and activist with the New Hampshire Youth Movement.)

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