Growing up, my parents taught me that voting is not only a right, but a privilege. They voted in every local, midterm, and presidential election, and every time they did so they were sure to show me their “I voted” sticker.
As I grew older, they discussed propositions or candidates with me, asking me what I thought and even providing me with sample ballots. My dad and I would talk about why our opinions were the same or different, and what information we were basing those votes on. When 2016 rolled around, I still wasn’t old enough to vote – but I knew I would be going to college in the fall and could register to vote in the state that would be my home for the next four years.
I soon decided that would be New Hampshire. One of my first orders of business upon enrolling at Dartmouth College was to register to vote in my new state, a process which required my student and home state IDs – simple enough.
The first ballot I ever cast was the 2018 primary. Walking out of the voting booth, I was filled with both excitement and gratitude. It was incredibly satisfying to finally cast my vote.
So you can imagine my dismay when I learned of HB1264, a new state law that would change what it means to be a “resident” of New Hampshire, forcing people with out-of-state driver’s licenses or car registrations who are eligible to vote in New Hampshire to pay fees to switch to state-versions. Otherwise, they will face criminal penalties. HB1264 was passed in 2018 and is slated to go into effect in July 2019. Under the law, I have to pay to change my California license to be a New Hampshire one. If I vote and don’t change my license within 60 days, I could even be charged with a misdemeanor offense punishable with up to one year in jail.
Make no mistake: this is meant to deter young people from participating in our elections. For me, the importance of voting in New Hampshire comes down to two factors: the fact that I now spend more time here than anywhere else, and that state and local policies can affect anything from my access to health care to the quality of the 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 unreasonable barriers for students like me who are engaged in our 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.