College Student Voting Rights Debate
By Arianna Traballano '24 | March 15, 2021
Tonight’s public debate, hosted by the St. Anselm College Debate Team in conjunction with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, focused on the arguments for and against making it easier for college students, particularly those from out of state, to vote. Professor David Trumble, the team’s advisor, started off the evening by announcing the topic and introducing the debaters, Alexander Burgess, Kathryn Monahan, Neil Craffey, and Nathanial Crane.
Burgess initiated the debate, arguing that New Hampshire should make it easier for college students to vote. He listed five main contentions, including a statement of values: that everyone has the right to vote - before claiming that there is a status quo restricting students from voting, that voting locations should be included on campus, that there are simple solutions to increasing college voter turnout, and that the majority of Americans believe that everything possible should be done to ensure that everyone has the right to vote. Under cross examination, Burgess clarified that everyone should be able to vote within eligible qualifiers, that the mail in ballot system is safe, that current laws significantly decrease the likelihood that students will vote, and that the goal is not to force students to vote in a different state but rather to make it more accessible should they choose to.
Following Burgess came Craffey, who was arguing for the negative. He too started with a statement of values, claiming that the reason out-of-state students should not vote here is because they are not full time residents, and thus do not pay taxes and are not invested in local issues. He continued on to note that if the mail-in ballot system is safe and secure, then there is no need for out-of-state voters to dilute local votes when they can easily cast an absentee ballot instead. He also argued that it is constitutional for the law to require residency in order for students to vote, citing a quote from Governor Sununu claiming that this too would prevent out-of-state votes from skewing state results. During the cross-examination, he elucidated that the legislation in question was a Republican-lead effort, that generally speaking, college students tend to vote Democrat, and that there are not similar restrictions on other citizens, such as seniors and those who leave the state during the winter months.
Up next was Monahan, who was also arguing for the affirmative. She initiated her rebuttal by noting that while absentee ballots are an option, state Republicans have been attempting to pass legislation that would repress absentee voting. She also argued that while college students may not live here year round, they spend a significant amount of time here, are heavily involved in local communities, and are affected by local laws, such as Marijuana legislation, claiming that this shows the laws are aimed at college students, since they do not affect other individuals who leave for long periods of time. Furthermore, she argued that while Republicans claim the law is fair, it is actually just an attempt to restrict Democratic voters. Finally, she noted that most laws can be changed according to size, and that while her opponents claim that colleges are too small to have their own voting centers, many college campuses have populations equal to or larger than many of the towns in New Hampshire, which do have their own polling stations.
Lastly was Crane, who concluded the negative. He began by stating that partisan voting is also an issue, but just because the bill is Republican led does not mean it cannot also be right. He argued that just because rights are guaranteed, it does not mean they are absolute, stating that we do not let children or people from other countries vote, so neither should we let students from other states. He reaffirmed that the law is constitutional, and given that absentee ballots are safe, students can cast absentee votes in good faith. He also noted that it is not the goal to make it easy for out-of-state students to vote, only that they should be able to in some manner, thus also preventing others from coming to New Hampshire and taking advantage of the system to cast votes and sway local politics.
Once both sides had completed their arguments, Professor Trumble returned to give a few final closing remarks and take any questions from the audience. He declared the debate a success and offered a few of his own observations, and concluded the evening.