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Encouraging young people to vote in N.H.

First, you have to get them registered. And that can be more difficult in New Hampshire than it is in other states.

Residents vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

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How to get young people interested in voting? First, you have to get them registered. And that can be more difficult in New Hampshire than it is in other states. 

The Granite State requires people to register in person, a barrier that doesn’t exist in the 41 states with online registration (including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island). Civic-minded orgs are working to boost registration here because the voting numbers for young people are not looking good. 


Nationwide, the age group with the lowest turnout is people under the age of 25, and less than half of 18-year-olds vote. In New Hampshire, it’s even worse: the state average is around 13 percent for 18-year-old voters. But there’s hope: Those rates increased to around 20 percent in places that had hosted voter registration drives, like Portsmouth and Lebanon.

So last week, Open Democracy and the Civics Center held a training to teach students and school staff how to organize a voter registration drive. (They also have an online toolkit available.) Marlon Pinto, a student at Portsmouth High School, was there, hoping to learn how to host a drive at his school. One of his teachers, Michelle Wheeler, also attended the session.

The research shows that if young people are registered to vote, they’ll show up to vote. “The barrier here is registration, not apathy,” said Molly Ford, director of youth programs at the Civics Center. 

It takes some planning to register: students have to bring the right documents proving age, identity, domicile, and citizenship. Those can include a driver’s license, a passport, or a birth certificate, which not all young people have access to. Needing a ride can also make it more difficult to register. A voter registration drive can simplify the process for students, bringing a town or city official to the school so students don’t have to figure out transportation. 


“We want voter registration to become a part of every eligible high school student’s experience,” said Ford. The goal is to “make this a part of everyone’s coming of age.”

Main Street shops in Walpole New Hampshire.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

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Amanda Gokee can be reached at Follow her @amanda_gokee.