- New Hampshire Law Infringes on Voting Rights
- Update: Court Agrees with DOJ, Rules Against the University of Iowa
- Update: Harvard Files Answers to Lawsuits
- Lawsuit Filed Against Yale is An Attack on Greek Organizations
- Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Law Passed in Pennsylvania
- Navigating Louisiana's Max Gruver Act
- Bloomington Ordinance Found Unconstitutional
Newsletter > March 2019 > "New Hampshire Law Infringes on Voting Rights"
New Hampshire Law Infringes on Voting Rights
Tim Burke, Manley Burke LPA, firstname.lastname@example.org
On behalf of two Dartmouth College sophomores, the ACLU has filed suit in United States District Court to block a New Hampshire state law that would require college students who register to vote in New Hampshire to also pay for a New Hampshire driver’s license and a vehicle registration.
In a statement by Julie Ebenstein, Senior Staff Attorney for the Voting Rights Project of the ACLU, the cost of compliance with the law may require “people to pay up to hundreds of dollars in vehicle registration fees if they register to vote.” Students who register to vote must pay those fees within 60 days of registering or they face up to a year in jail.
The lawsuit challenges the law under three legal theories: (i) that it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments as well as the United States Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. Section 1983) as the complaint argues the new law “severely and unreasonably burdens the fundamental right to vote. . . particularly burdens young voters, college student voters, and voters who have recently moved to New Hampshire,” (ii) that it violates the Twenty–sixth Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees “the right of citizens of the United States who are 18 years of age or older to vote shall not be denied or abridged by. . . any state on account of age,” and (iii) that it violates the Twenty–fourth Amendment which guarantees that the right to vote shall not “be denied or abridged by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or any other tax.”
One of the Plaintiffs, Maggie Flaherty, writing on an ACLU blog site, explained why she opposes the new law and is a Plaintiff in the lawsuit this way:
Make no mistake: this is meant to deter young people from participating in our elections. For me, the importance of voting of New Hampshire comes down to two factors: the fact that I now spend more time here than anywhere else, and that state and local politics can effect anything from my access to health care and my access to the quality of air I breathe. I vote for candidates that are concerned about climate change and my access to reproductive health care because their actions in office will affect my daily life. Despite the fact that I care deeply about exercising my right to vote, I also recognize that as a busy student, any barriers to registration would be a significant burden.
So with the help of the ACLU and along with my fellow students, I am suing the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Attorney General to declare HB 1264 unconstitutional. HB 1264 creates an unconstitutional barriers for students like me who are engaged in pour local political community and comprise an important voting bloc in the state. Voting is our right, and we should not have to jump through hoops or pay hundreds of dollars to be able to exercise it.
The right of college students to register and vote where they attend college has long been recognized in the courts.3 It is of benefit to Fraternities and Sororities to advocate in support of protection of those rights and support non–partisan voter registration drives.
The March 2019 American Bar Association Journal begins with an article on the work of attorneys specializing in election law. The article includes comments from John Hardin Young, the past chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Election Law, summarizing them this way:
While the Jim Crow days of literacy tests and poll taxes are in the past, Young points to the prevalence of more subtle voter suppression techniques, such as closing polling locations and making it difficult to figure out where to vote; instigating a heavy police presence; or requiring burdensome proof of residency.4
The New Hampshire law is just the kind of “burdensome proof of residency” that Young speaks to, but the ACLU believes it is also the equivalent of the poll taxes that were previously used to discourage those the powers that were did not want to vote at all. The majority in the New Hampshire legislature seem to be reprising that role.
When it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of Greek organizations, advocating for college student voter registration rights and encouraging voter registration programs helps to establish Greek organizations as expressive associations under the First Amendment. Being publicly active in voter registration campaigns cannot help but attract the attention of elected office holders, who may as a result be more responsive to the issues of fraternities and sororities.
1. Complaint, Casey v. Gardner, No. 1:19–cv–00149–JL (D. N.H. Feb. 13, 2019).
2. H.B. 1264, Reg. Sess. (N.H. 2018).
3. See, e.g., Anderson v. Brown, 332 F.Supp. 1195 (D. Ohio 1971) (holding that college students may not be treated differently from others seeking to register to vote).
4. Liane Jackson, Opening Statements: Keeping it Fair, 105 A.B.A. J. 9, 9–10 (Mar. 2019).
Tim Burke, the author of this article, has long been an advocate for the protection of voter rights and voter participation. He has taught election law throughout the state of Ohio, appeared as an election rights expert in half a dozen federal court cases, served as an international elections monitor in the first post war municipal election in Bosnia and Herzegovina, held Get Out The Vote training in Slovakia under a contract with the United States Department of State, and at the end of February concluded 26 years on the Hamilton County Board of Elections (20 of those years as its chair).