DURHAM — Former President Bill Clinton yesterday urged out-of-state college students to vote in the battleground state of New Hampshire, accusing Republicans of trying to take away their rights.
Clinton criticized the state’s disputed new voter registration law while campaigning for President Barack Obama at the University of New Hampshire. He said while some students may believe this election doesn’t matter, “Republicans in New Hampshire think it matters — that’s why they’ve worked so hard to keep you from voting,” he said.
Students traditionally have been allowed to declare the state their domicile for voting purposes without holding legal residency, which involves an intent to stay for an extended period of time. A federal judge ruled in 1972 that New Hampshire could not forbid out-of-state students from voting in the state even if they planned to leave after graduation, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled similarly seven years later.
But under a law passed over Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s veto this year, new voters would be required to sign a statement saying they are subject to laws that apply to all residents, including laws requiring drivers to register cars and get a New Hampshire driver’s license. The statement doesn’t specifically require students to be residents but makes them subject to hundreds of laws involving residency.
Out-of-state college students have challenged the law, and the matter remains tied up in court five weeks before the election.
In the meantime, the Obama campaign has been actively urging out-of-state students to register in New Hampshire, telling them that their vote “counts more” in a swing state. Republican legislative leaders strongly object, saying legal residents shouldn’t have their votes diluted by students.
Clinton, who spoke hours before the first debate between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, also told students that the candidates’ positions on the student loan system was reason enough to favor Obama.