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Obama's winning margins in NH college towns drop

Associated Press Published: November 11, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — President Barack Obama doesn't appear to have much to show for his campaign's aggressive effort to encourage college students — particularly out-of-staters — to vote in New Hampshire.

While the president won all four of New Hampshire's major college communities — Durham, Hanover, Keene and Plymouth — by wide margins Tuesday, his advantage in those towns actually shrank compared to 2008.

For example, Obama won 82 percent of the vote in Hanover, home to Dartmouth College, in 2008, but only 75 percent on Tuesday. In Durham, Obama's margin of victory dropped from 74 percent four years ago to 69 percent Tuesday.

Those kinds of drops weren't unusual — overall, Obama's share of the vote decreased in nearly three-quarters of all towns and cities compared to 2008. But the results in the college towns stand out given the extent to which the Obama campaign courted students.

The campaign actively urged out-of-state students to register in New Hampshire, telling them that their vote "counts more" in a swing state. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Obama at the University of New Hampshire, telling students that Republicans were trying to take away their right to vote.

"They've worked so hard to keep you from voting," he said at a rally in October.

Clinton was referring to a new voter registration law backed by Republican legislative leaders who argued that liberal-minded out-of-state students were diluting the votes of New Hampshire residents.

The law, which was ultimately put on hold before the election after students challenged it in court, would have required new voters to sign a statement saying they are subject to laws that apply to all residents, including laws requiring drivers to register cars and get New Hampshire driver's licenses.

Students traditionally have been allowed to declare the state their home for voting purposes without holding legal residency, which involves an intent to stay for an extended period of time. The statement wouldn't have specifically required students to be residents but would have made them subject to hundreds of laws involving residency.

It's unclear how the controversy over the law played out on Election Day. In Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, town officials said a record-breaking 3,024 people registered to vote on Tuesday, casting more than 40 percent of the town's total vote. Officials said the overwhelming majority of them were students, though how many were out-of-staters is unknown, and there's no way of knowing how any of them voted.

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