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PSU students organize to oppose HB176


February 22, 2011
PLYMOUTH—Students across New Hampshire are organizing to oppose proposed legislation that would take away their right to vote where they are residing while attending a college or university.

For voting purposes, House Bill 176 would define a student's "domicile" as his or her residence immediately before matriculating at university. It would also keep active duty military service personnel from voting when they are temporarily stationed in New Hampshire.

Today, Thursday, Feb. 24, students from Plymouth State University will journey to Concord to testify on HB 176. Their fellow students at the University of New Hampshire passed a resolution last week in the Student Senate opposing the bill and calling on Gov. Lynch to veto the legislation if it should reach his desk.

The controversial bill, introduced by Rep. Gregory Sorg (Grafton County 3), is designed to prevent students from voting in locations where they take up residence temporarily, and proponents say that it is needed in order to prevent voter fraud.

But students at Plymouth State University this week said that they were concerned that the effort to take away their right to vote where they live here in New Hampshire could be the beginning of a slow erosion of their Constitutional rights as citizens.

"I believe that it is my individual right to decide what I consider to be my home," said one student leader. "I don't believe the state should determine what is my 'domicile' for voting purposes."

As they sat in a class on Society, Ethics and Law and discussed the implications of the events they have seen unfolding in Egypt and across the Arab world recently, they began to reflect on their own role in the political process here at home.

"If we don't do the little things we need to do to ensure that our voices will be heard in the political process, then some day, we could end up having to organize a movement like the one in Egypt," said one concerned student in the lively, talkative class.

Some students said they felt the legislation was a "direct attack" on their right to participate in elections.

Others said that they could feel some sympathy with local residents who are objecting to the heavy influence of the student voting block in college towns like Hanover, Keene, Durham and Plymouth. But everyone agreed that it was important for students to organize and act so that their point of view would be represented on this issue that was of great importance to their future.

Outside of class, students planned to get together to organize a press conference and demonstration in Concord, and to testify at the legislative hearing on the bill. They have created a Facebook group, "Students for Equal Rights," around the initiative, and have started a petition campaign, garnering more than 600 signatures in opposition to the bill thus far.

They expect to be joined by students from Dartmouth College and others at the hearings in Concord this week.

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