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N.H. college kids decry new rules restricting their voting

The potentially pivotal New Hampshire primary is still 10 months away, but there's already anxiety about Democratic disenfranchisement.

Why? "Because the Republicans passed legislation to make it so that college students couldn't vote without paying a poll tax," Garrett Muscatel, a 20-year old Dartmouth student who's also a Democratic state representative, explained to the Daily Beast.

In the past, prospective voters needed only to prove they were living in New Hampshire to be eligible, one of the loosest residency requirements in the country. But last year GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, saying his aim was to tamp down on potential voter fraud, signed a bill requiring voters to have a state driver's license (which costs $50) and to register their vehicles in New Hampshire (another $300) or else face a misdemeanor charge.

At least eight Democratic candidates for president, all of whom are hoping to win the nomination with the help of an energized youth turnout, have condemned the statute. "Students are the ones who will have to deal with the decisions lawmakers make for decades to come," Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey tweeted. "Protecting their right to vote is paramount."

College students, who are mostly from out of state, account for roughly 90,000 of the state's 1.2 million residents. (Even at the University of New Hampshire only half the students come from the state.)

Bills to repeal the new residency rules, or carve out an exception for college students, are moving in the Democratic controlled legislature, but not with enough support to withstand a potential veto. The state Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law last year, but some Dartmouth students are now suing in federal court.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue

Naturalized citizens living in Mississippi must prove their citizenship when they register to vote, unlike those born in the United States. Above, members of the military are sworn in as U.S. citizens at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Mississippi voting rules are biased against naturalized citizens, lawsuit alleges

The latest effort to ease restrictions on voting through litigation is a challenge to Mississippi's requirement that naturalized citizens show proof of their citizenship when they register.

The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, says the law is unconstitutional because it violates of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause by treating one category of citizens differently from another. People born in the United States need only check a box on the state's registration form attesting they are citizens.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which helped bring the suit, says Mississippi is the only state with a unique mandate for would-be voters who were not born American citizens.

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Congress
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Committee on the Modernization of Congress

"Members are clearly concerned for the future of Congress. These are not partisan or political concerns," writes Mark Strand.

Now that the House’s modernization panel is extended, it has a lot more work to do

Strand is president of the Congressional Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to help members of Congress better serve their constituents and their constituents better understand Congress. He testified before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress in March.

As the House of Representatives marches toward a partisan impeachment, the American public can be forgiven for missing a bright spot of productive bipartisanship: the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. After an encouraging year of bipartisan committee work, the House voted last week to extend the panel for a year.

This committee has made 29 unanimous recommendations to improve technology, transparency, accessibility and constituent engagement as well as provide better support for staff. Twenty-nine unanimous recommendations. And these aren't boiler plate measures like "The House should have more transparency." They are well thought-out solutions that can be taken up by committees of jurisdiction, such as allowing new members to hire a transition staffer, promoting civility during new-member orientation, streamlining bill writing and finalizing a system to easily track how amendments would alter legislation and impact current law.

The committee's members wanted to be part of this work. They understand how important it is for the House to catch up with modern times. There's still a lot of work to do, though, which is why it's great they will be able to continue through the end of 2020.

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