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Currents: about student voting

Cast Your Ballot

The hills of New Hampshire are alive with the sound of political debate, but if you haven't registered yet to vote in a state's presidential primary, the good news is that it's not too late.

All college students 18 and older are eligible to register to vote, whether in their hometown or the town in which their college is located, provided they establish their legal domicile in that town. Voters can only have one domicile, and cast only one vote.

For Colby-Sawyer students, the first thing to do is decide whether to cast your vote as a resident of New London, N.H., or as a resident of your hometown, whether in person or by way of an absentee ballot.

If you choose to vote in New London, you can register anytime at the Town Offices in the Old Colby Academy Building on Main Street until ten days before the primary – all you have to do is bring photo ID, and that, according to New London Town Clerk and Tax Collector Linda Hardy, includes your Colby-Sawyer ID card, your driver's license or passport. You can also register on the actual day of the primary. (The town uses that 10-day window to compile the voter checklist, but they're always happy to add more names on the day of the primary.)

Colby-Sawyer College Student Government Association President Zachary Irish '08 and Xanthe Hilton '11 have both registered to vote in New London, and urge their fellow students to take part in the political process.

“Although it may not seem it sometimes, every vote counts, and for those students who like to complain and debate issues in government, you don't have an argument if you don't vote,” said Irish.

Among Hilton's friends, the election is a frequent topic of discussion. “Most days we have the news on. Most of my friends are looking forward to the election because it will be the first one where we have a serious impact,” she said.

“I feel around campus, all the candidates are represented and that people are open to other views. Some students are overwhelmed by the election while others are very excited,” added Irish.

The date of the New Hampshire Primary has not been set yet, but New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner has said it will be held before Jan. 8, 2008. Hardy says it won't occur before Dec.11, 2007, so consider where you will be in that timeframe and plan accordingly.

The Official Deal

Here's something you should know about registering to vote in New Hampshire if you are an out-of-state student, in the official language of the State of New Hampshire:

Your right to vote is not affected by where you obtain a driver's license or register your car. However, you may be subject to fines, administrative penalties, or loss of driving privileges under the motor vehicle laws if you establish legal domicile/residence in New Hampshire and fail, within 60 days, to obtain a New Hampshire license showing that address or if you fail, within 60 days, to register your car in New Hampshire at that address.

Establishing a voting domicile has the effect of also making that place your legal residence for many purposes including motor vehicle laws. Voting records will be routinely matched with motor vehicle department records to ensure valid information is provided in the voter registration process. Establishing a legal residence carries with it the duty to get a New Hampshire license if you are going to drive in the state and to register your vehicle here, if you have one, through that town/city. Failing to comply with these motor vehicle laws, however, will NOT affect your right to vote.

Changing your legal address may affect other legal interests. None of these changes affects your right to register and vote where you were domiciled prior to coming to college or your right to register and vote where you are domiciled while attending college, but changing your legal address can cause unrelated changes to things like:

Health insurance – most health insurance is not affected. If you obtain insurance through a family plan that requires your legal domicile be at your family residence, you may want to check with your family or your insurance agent.

Car insurance – usually affected only if you obtain insurance through a family plan that requires your legal domicile be at your family residence. Check with your family or your insurance agent.

Taxes – only individuals with significant assets or tax liabilities might be affected. If you are in this category you may want to check with your tax advisor.

Any scholarship or grant that is conditioned on your being and remaining a legal resident of a particular town/city or state. Financial aid officers report that major student loan and grant programs including Pell, Perkins, Stafford, PLUS, SEOG, and federal work study are not affected. Check with your financial aid officer if you have questions.

Do not let these concerns discourage you from voting, however. For a few students it may be important to register and vote in the town where you resided before coming to college. Generally, establishing a legal residence or domicile for voting purposes in New Hampshire after you have entered college here will not change your tuition status.

If you have questions or concerns regarding whether changing your legal residence will affect any of these legal interests you should inquire with your insurance company, your tax advisor, the organization or entity that granted you a scholarship/grant, AAA, or your college admissions officials. (

Voting By Absentee Ballot

If you want your vote to count in your home state, and you're not sure you'll be able to vote there in person, contact your town or city hall to request an absentee voter registration form from your town clerk. If you are already registered in your hometown, simply request an absentee ballot.

Robin Davis, associate dean of students, points out that primary ballots should be available for absentee purposes 30 days before the actual primary, so students could vote in the primary before they leave for break if they want to vote in New London as an absentee voter.

The State of New Hampshire urges voters to request absentee ballots for the presidential primary now so that it can be mailed to you as soon as they are ready. Your ballot must be returned to the town clerk before 5 p.m. on the day of the primary.

“Get involved,” encourages Hilton. “It's the people you elect, or you help get elected, that are shaping the world that we will live in.”

Voter registration will be held on campus Nov. 14 11:30a.m.-1p.m. at the information desk in Ware Campus Center.

For More Information

• For information about voting as a college student in New Hampshire, visit //

• Contact New London Town Clerk & Tax Collector Linda Hardy at 526-4821 ext. 11 with questions about voting in New London

• If you live outside New Hampshire and have questions, contact your Town Clerk, or your Secretary of State's Oofice, in your hometown and state

• For questions about grants or scholarships that may be affected by changing your domicile to New London, call Ted Craigie in Financial Aid at (603)526-3708

-Kate Dunlop Seamans