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Expert: Student Vote Could Decide Trump or Biden Win in NH

In Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016 by more than 4,000 votes. She won the state by less than 3,000 votes. (AcrossTheAtlantic/Wikimedia Commons)
In Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016 by more than 4,000 votes. She won the state by less than 3,000 votes. (AcrossTheAtlantic/Wikimedia Commons)
September 17, 2020

DURHAM, N.H. -- The student vote in New Hampshire could decide if President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden win the state, according to a voting expert.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had her narrowest victory in the Granite State, beating Trump by less than 3,000 votes.

But in the four main college towns, she won by more than 14,000 votes.

Quentin Palfrey, chair of the Voter Protection Corps, argued student voter turnout here is critical.

"The student population in New Hampshire often provides the margin of victory one way or another," Palfrey said. "The swing from Republican to Democrat or the other way around often hinges on the question of student vote turnout."

Palfrey said while young people mostly support Democrats, they do not always vote in large numbers.

He is concerned online misinformation and difficulties in voting absentee, particularly for students living out of state due to COVID-19, could hamper their participation.

In New Hampshire, anyone can use the coronavirus as a reason to register to vote by mail, including students temporarily living away.

Palfrey said young people tend to participate more in elections they're excited about, and high primary turnout usually indicates increased presidential voter turnout. He mentioned the September primary here.

"Even in last week's state primary, the turnout was pretty robust, and it was pretty robust on both sides," Palfrey said. "So I think that there's good reason to suspect that we will have high turnout."

The state primary on Sep. 8 had one of the highest turnouts in New Hampshire history, with more people voting than in 2018.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH