Jason Kander: Sununu must commit to vetoing HB 372

For the Monitor
Published: 3/3/2018 12:15:09 AM

Gov. Chris Sununu recently referred to the disenfranchisement of New Hampshire college students by House Bill 372 as “indirect consequences” of the legislation. We should be perfectly clear: The explicit goal of HB 372, Senate Bill 3 and other bad voting bills passed by the Republican Legislature is to keep young people from voting here in New Hampshire.

In 2016, Republicans narrowly lost two statewide elections, and instead of reaching out to the voters who didn’t support them, Gov. Sununu and his allies want to remove a large group of voters from the equation. It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it’s an insult to New Hampshire’s democratic tradition.

New Hampshire is one of the only states in the country where Republicans are actively and openly working to strip college students of their voting rights. Last year, Republicans shamefully championed a first-of-its-kind bill to complicate elections for voters who relocate often. Now being litigated in court, SB 3 could send government officials to knock on doors to question folks after they register to vote.

SB 3 was passed with the help of a widely discredited claim that out-of-state voters are bused in for New Hampshire elections – a lie by President Donald Trump that was echoed by Gov. Sununu.

But politicians in the Legislature are even bolder now. They’ll say openly that New Hampshire college students should be held to a different standard than other New Hampshire voters. And to enforce it, they’ve created a modern-day poll tax to impose on them.

HB 372 and its companion bill, HB 1264, would require a large group of college students and other voters who move often to pay to have multiple registrations changed just to be able to vote. It’s totally unnecessary and serves no purpose other than to create additional hassle for young folks who are trying to participate in the democratic process.

It’s the job of the government to bring eligible voters into the process and find ways to encourage participation. The group of legislators behind SB 3 and HB 372 is doing the exact opposite because they believe the most important thing they can do for voters is stay in power – even if it means sacrificing election integrity.

Gov. Sununu already said that he “hates” HB 372 and that he would never take any action to disenfranchise students. If he’s serious, he should commit to vetoing the bill and call off the legislators who have made it their mission to restrict New Hampshire’s voting laws.

College students today show so much promise, and if they learn at a young age that the right to vote is a political tool instead of a constitutional right, we risk losing a generation of voters.

It’s only hurting college students to force them to continue wondering whether they’ll get to vote in the pivotal elections later this year. They deserve assurance that their voices and their votes are just as valuable as every other voter’s.

Right now, voting rights advocates across the Granite State are organizing to tell their legislators to preserve New Hampshire’s democratic tradition and reject the poll tax that is HB 372. Their task is simple: treat our democracy with respect and leave voting rights alone. 

Voting rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but they’ve been weaponized by politicians who want a shortcut to re-election. It’s time for Gov. Sununu to call off the assault and focus on ways to expand the franchise, not limit it.

(Jason Kander is the president of Let America Vote.)

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