Court strikes down GOP law designed to block college students from voting in New Hampshire
Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

On Thursday, a state court in New Hampshire struck down Senate Bill 3 — one of a pair of controversial GOP-backed voting laws that in tandem make it significantly harder for college students in the state to vote.

SB3 creates new and onerous requirements for voters to prove they are a resident of the state when voting, requires them to sign an affidavit if they cannot do so, and increases penalties for those who fail to comply. The GOP enacted this law alongside HB1264, which changes the definition of residency — possibly requiring college students to obtain an in-state driver license or change the state registration of their car to be counted as a resident. That law is facing a separate court challenge.

In addition to Republicans, the law is backed by New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner — who is a Democrat, but has a history of siding with Republicans on voting rights issues.

"The problem with SB 3 is not that it creates a system that encourages voters to be actively turned away from the polls," wrote Hillsborough Superior Court Judge David Anderson. "The burdens imposed by SB 3 are more subtle; the new process establishes enough hurdles, the forms contain enough complexity, and the penalties present enough risk that they tend to dissuade a specific type of voter from even engaging with the process. In this regard, the State's constant refrain that nobody was prevented from voting rings hollow. SB 3 does not stop someone at the polls from casting a ballot; it discourages them from showing up in the first place."

The ruling is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.