Voting and Voice: Registering in New Hampshire

by Christina Baris | 11/7/18 2:25am

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Some students may choose to vote through absentee ballots. 

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

When was the first time you realized that you had a voice? No, not the first time your mom recorded you speaking your very first words ­— when did you decide that those words held power, or that they were capable of having an impact? For some, this realization occurred rather quickly — maybe it was during second grade, when you stood up for the shy kid who was picked on, or maybe you ran for student body president in middle school and encouraged your history teacher to instate no homework Wednesdays.

However, many people are often silenced; too many times they have witnessed their voices fade into the background, unaccounted for. These individuals may believe that their voices are unimportant and do not matter.

For many people, the beginning of college signifies the chance to solidify — and possibly define — one’s voice. The independence of college allows for the opportunity to remain uninfluenced by sources that might have swayed their decisions in the past. College is also often accompanied with a movement across the country, meaning that students’ voices are now projected to an entirely different audience. During the month of November, the power of our voices is particularly powerful, as Election Day highlights how our voices can quite literally shape the future.

In particular, when it comes to voting, it is important to maximize the power of one’s voice. There are strategic measures people can take to ensure that their voices are as impactful as possible. One specific measure that pertains to Dartmouth students is the option to register to vote in New Hampshire, as opposed to voting in one’s home state via an absentee ballot. According to the Brookings Institute, the New Hampshire primary is among the most important primaries in the country, in part because it is the first.

Additionally, New Hampshire has been classified as a swing state, meaning that both political parties have similar levels of support. These factors can influence Dartmouth students’ decisions when considering their voting options.

New Hampshire’s swing state status is especially influential for students whose home state has a constant voting pattern.

“My home state is very Democratic, so because I’m a Democrat, my vote probably won’t have as much of a presence in that state,” Ellie Baker ’22 said.

It can be easy to feel unimportant if your personal political beliefs are consistent with the predicted outcome. However, voting in New Hampshire — where the outcome is not as easily predictable — allows some students to feel that their voices are more impactful.

“California tends to continually go blue, so because New Hampshire is more of a swing state I think that my vote has more of an opportunity to have an impact,” Baker said.

This statement reflects a common theme that people’s votes can matter more depending on which state they vote in. Baker is excited by the prospect of her vote having a bigger impact.

“[It’s] an exciting position to be in, especially with the New Hampshire legislation trying to pass laws that will limit our vote. It’s an especially exciting time to be able to have a vote,” Baker said.

Choosing which state to vote in is an important decision that varies depending on the student. Baker notes that it is largely dependent on the home state of each student and their political views.

Some students, such as Rohith Mandavilli ’22, choose to vote in their home state via an absentee ballot. Mandavilli highlights that it is “important to participate in a democracy” and relates the idea of not voting to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ … if you don’t [vote], nobody else will.” This idea stems from the notion that decisions may seem insignificant at the personal level, but if all individuals behave in a similar destructive manner, the entire population can suffer. Choosing to vote in one’s home state can also be a result of being more informed on politics in one’s home state. Whether you are voting in New Hampshire or your home state, it is critical that everyone’s voices are heard.

“I think definitely having structures which support everyone voicing their opinion rather than a select group of people is really important,” Baker said.

Registering to vote in New Hampshire is also gaining attention due to current legislation regarding voting. Sachin Shiva ’22 is from Illinois but is plans on voting in New Hampshire. Shiva believes that his vote is more impactful in New Hampshire as Illinois is typically a blue state.

“[Your vote] definitely matters more in New Hampshire, just in terms of New Hampshire being a swing state, and your vote has more power here than any other place in the country,” Shiva said.

For Shiva, the weight one’s vote holds is incredibly important.

“I think it’s important that when you’re casting your vote that it actually matters in the election,” Shiva said.

Shiva believes that voting in New Hampshire is particularly important when considering the future presidential election. “I would highly recommend voting here in New Hampshire, especially in this district,” Shiva said. “There’s this law called HB 1264 that was signed into law by Governor Sununu that goes into effect in 2019, so if we don’t vote in the Democratic governor, that means that students would have to have a New Hampshire driver’s license to vote here in New Hampshire in 2020.”

It is evident that being informed on current legislations can help students decide where to vote and how to optimize the power of their voices.

We all crave a sense of importance; we all desire to be heard. For our voices to truly matter, our participation must be active and impactful. If your opinion is voiced, but no one is around to hear it … did it really make a sound? Here at Dartmouth, we have a lively student body with eclectic opinions. Our voices are “crying out in the wilderness,” and we make certain that they are heard. They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but perhaps your most powerful tool is much closer than you’d imagine: your voice. All you have to do is use it.