Monday, February 07, 2011

New Hampshire Voters Swung Hard Right In November... So A Move To Disenfranchise Students Should Surprise No One There


New Hampshire calls its bicameral state legislature the General Court of New Hampshire. There are 400 House members, making it one of the most representative in America, and 24 senators. Traditionally the lower house has been controlled by Republicans who usually split between mainstream conservatives and reactionary extremists but in 2006 Democrats swept into power. Last November, when the right-wing tsunami swept across America it washed up in New Hampshire as well. Democrats gave up both congressional seats and the Republicans held onto a U.S. Senate seat that should have gone blue. Rep. Paul Hodes lost the Senate race to Kelly Ayotte by a disastrous 60-37%... in a state where the last Senate contest, in 2008, saw Jeanne Shaheen oust Republican incumbent John Sununu 358,438 (52%) to 314,403 (45%), while Obama beat McCain 384,826 (54%) to 316,534 (45%).

In November, disappointed and disillusioned Democrats just did not show up at the polls. Governor Lynch was re-elected but instead of the 479,042 (70%) who voted for him in 2008, he scraped by with 239,390 (53%)-- about half the number of voters! And it was all downhill from there. Hodes only took 166,538 votes in the whole state, not just a catastrophe compared to the 358,438 Shaheen won, but actually less than the 188,332 he had won in his congressional reelection in just half the state 2 years earlier! One of the best Members of Congress, Carol Shea-Porter lost out to a fringy lunatic, Frank Guinta, campaigning as a teabagger and the open seat that Hodes had given up, narrowly brought back a corrupt GOP Wall Street shill, Charlie Bass (by about 1%).

Worse for ordinary New Hampshire residents, both houses of the state legislature changed hands. There are currently 19 Republicans and only 5 Democrats in the state Senate while the Republicans hold a 298-104 advantage over the Democrats in the lower house. And Republicans have moved quickly to put New Hampshire back on a right-wing, pre-2006 course. They are working towards overturning marriage equality, reinstating the death penalty, cutting back on women's choice, and putting up barriers to union organizing. Yesterday the Boston Globe reported that the state legislature is moving towards taking away students' right to vote.
Are college students residents of the towns where they attend school, or are they interlopers, merely stopping in along the way with little vested interest in local affairs?

The controversial question has been posed in New Hampshire, where proposed legislation would take away students’ right to vote in their college town unless they lived there before enrolling and intended to stay-- a move that could have possible overtones for the first-in-the-nation primary.

Already, the weeks-old legislation is getting serious attention from Republicans and stirring angry responses from Democrats who say the bill is a thinly veiled effort to bar liberal-leaning students from casting ballots. Election law specialists in New Hampshire and beyond have offered criticism-- the proposal, they say, flouts court rulings on the question-- while college students are crossing party lines to protest the bill.

“We think that we are part of the communities where we are going to school and we think it’s wrong for the state to choose its voters,’’ said Jeremy Kaufmann, president of Dartmouth College Democrats, which is working with Dartmouth College Republicans to craft a retort to the bill at an as-yet unscheduled legislative hearing... [The] bill extends the same voting restrictions to members of the military and federal employees temporarily stationed in the state. Currently, military members and federal employees, like college students, are permitted to vote in New Hampshire while they are in the state.

...College student voting dramatically expanded in 1971, when the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 years of age to 18 in response to concerns that 18-year-olds could be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War but had no electoral say.

Questions quickly arose over whether students should vote at home or where they go to school. A 1972 US Supreme Court ruling that held that the town of Hanover could not bar a Dartmouth College student from voting because his parents lived in Hawaii and he planned to leave Hanover after graduation.

...Richard Sunderland, president of Dartmouth College Republicans, said the measure should be defeated, despite any advantage that might give to Democrats. The answer to that issue lies not in restricting the votes of college students, he said, but in broadening the appeal of the GOP to college students.

“Attacking the right to vote is attacking a symptom, not the problem itself,’’ he said.

Progressives, union members, gays, women, students who are flirting with the idea of teaching Obama and Democrats a lesson, need to go into it aware of what could happen if they do. On the other hand, disenfranchising students should be the final straw from ending the absurd system where New Hampshire gets inordinately large power of picking the Democratic nominee for president. It's long past time to throw that timetable on the junk heap of history where it belongs.

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At 11:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

"Taking away a students right to vote"??? Are you serious? They are moving to insure that students just like every other citizen only votes once. I was standing at the voter registration line in a college town watching students trying to register to vote with their absentee ballots from other states. Does that sound right to you? I know you are mad because this legislation would remove the student loophole that democrats have exploited for years.

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this will happen and it will also radicalize them. If they were serious they would not have elected neoliberal Obama.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Andrew, when did you go to college? Conservatives have always tried to put up obstructions to student voting.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The neoliberal college students are perfectly willing to sacrifice the needs of the working class. This just returns the favor.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous me said...

Last November, when the right-wing tsunami swept across America

Due to O'Bummer's wimpishness.


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