November 6, 2002
Student Voters Stalled
By Omar Sacirbey
Hanover -- Republican challenges to the voting eligibility of hundreds of
Dartmouth students caused long delays in voting yesterday and angered students
and non-students alike, even causing some to direct their votes away from the
"I was very annoyed. I can totally understand why people give up on the
democratic process," said Chelsea Carroll, a Dartmouth student who voted at
Hanover High School.
Describing herself as a slightly right-of-center independent, Carroll came to
the polls intending to vote a mixed ticket. Instead, she voted a straight
Democratic ticket because of the challenge to her voting rights, she said.
"It was a ridiculous ploy. It ended up backfiring," she said, adding
that she had heard several students say they had also voted against the
Republican ticket after being challenged.
The challenge effort was spearheaded by Edward Naile, head of the Coalition of
New Hampshire Taxpayers, who said the state GOP had appointed him as a
poll-watcher. He argued that many students at Dartmouth and other New Hampshire
colleges had been recruited by the state's Democratic Party to vote in this
election, even though they were not truly New Hampshire residents. He said he
was especially concerned about the high number of students who took advantage of
the state law that allows people to register on Election Day.
"Same-day registrations have been a problem in the past," said Naile.
He cited the 2000 election, when some GOP candidates charged that hundreds of
college students were not legitimate state residents when they voted.
"They're only using a college ID, and that doesn't mean that they're New
Hampshire residents," Naile said of the students.
Others accused Naile, and a few other poll-watchers with him, of targeting
students who had been registered in the state for as long as two years.
"It's petty and it's tacky," said Jennai Williams, a Dartmouth student
who voted as a New Hampshire resident in 2000.
"The whole point was to frustrate students enough so as to discourage them
from voting," said Amanda Bejamin-Smith, one of several hundred Dartmouth
students who registered to vote yesterday.
While most students interviewed said they were not intimidated by the
challenges, many said they were annoyed with resulting long waits at the polls.
At least two students turned around after being told by a fellow student that
the wait to vote would be half an hour.
Students had to first wait in line to receive ballots. After that, they would be
challenged by Naile, who questioned their New Hampshire residency status,
forcing them to stand in another line, where they would have to fill out an
affidavit swearing that they were legal residents of New Hampshire. Once
Hanover's town moderator signed the affidavits, students would stand in line
again to cast ballots.
"It's just a way to delay the process," said Marilyn Black, Hanover's
town moderator. "It's doubling the time it takes people to vote."
High voter turnout made the lines even longer. "I've never seen crowds like
this for a mid-term," said Black, noting that by 6 p.m., nearly 4,000 of
the roughly 5,200 voters on Hanover's checklist had voted. "I didn't find
it intimidating. But it's a hassle," said Dartmouth student Priscalla Zee.
She said she voted for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen because
she supports abortion rights and because she did a better job of reaching out to
students than did U.S. Rep. John Sununu.
The Attorney General's Office does not visit individual towns to review the
validity of residency affidavits, but it will review complaints forwarded to it.
"There is no policy of checking affidavits," said Bud Fitch, assistant
attorney general. "If we receive information that we think warrants an
investigation, we will conduct one." As of 4:30 p.m. yesterday, the state
Attorney General's Office hadn't received any voter complaints from Hanover.
Democrats accused Naile of voter intimidation. "The local Republicans
should be embarrassed that they let this happen on their turf," said
Democrat Sharon Nordgren, deputy speaker of the House, who was campaigning in
front of the high school.
"If I'm intimidating someone, why don't they charge me with it," said
Naile. "That's kind of phony argument. I just want to see who's voting in
my state." Naile said he has been a New Hampshire resident for 25 years.
William Conner, chairman of the Grafton County Republican Committee, defended
the challenges. "There is strong concern (in university towns) about kids
who aren't living in this state being able to register and vote the day of the
polls," he said, adding, "renting a room from Dartmouth does not
establish legal residence."
To vote in New Hampshire, a person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years
old, and must live in the state. Naile argued that students with licenses from
other states are not legal New Hampshire residents. Fitch, though, said that
isn't necessarily true. The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that people
replace out-of-state licenses with New Hampshire licenses within 60 days of
declaring residency. Not doing that doesn't mean a person is not a state
resident, or disqualify them from voting, Fitch said. It just means he or she
has run afoul of a state regulation.
"The fact that somebody has broken that law does not prevent them from
being eligible to vote," Fitch said.
State law is unclear on what it takes to be "domiciled" in New
Hampshire, meaning a legal resident of the state. "I can't give a
three-word answer of what 'domicile' is," Fitch said -- but he tried
anyway. "It's where the person lives most of the year."
"It's not clear," said Jesse Roisin, who lives in Croydon and is a
member of the Dartmouth's Republican student group. "It needs to be cleared
up by the 2004 elections."