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Obama's winning margins in NH college towns drop

Associated Press Published: November 11, 2012

As the registration line grew, election workers scrambled to move people around the local high school so as few voters as possible would have to wait outside in the cold. Worried that some might get discouraged and leave, volunteers went up and down the line distributing candy — 30 bags full — to lighten the mood. Inside, 40 workers manned 17 tables to get people registered.

"It looked a little bit like the New York Stock Exchange in terms of the level of activity and all the hand signals," said town administrator Todd Selig.

The town also registered students on campus ahead of the election, but only 400 signed up this year, compared to about 1,000 who signed up early in 2008 and 1,700 who waited until Election Day. Selig believes the media coverage of the new voter registration law led to Tuesday's rush by reinforcing the notion that students have a right to vote where they attend school.

"My strong opinion is that the young people who come to vote are not in any way, shape or form trying to game the system by voting in their college community," he said. "They simply want to participate in the democratic process."

Though it's impossible to determine what kind of effect out-of-state college students have on elections, the impact is likely greater in New Hampshire, where out-of-staters make up a greater percentage of enrollment than in all but three other states. An analysis of total enrollment in the fall of 2011 showed just over 32,500 out-of-staters — a significant number in a small state — but no one knows how many of them actually voted in New Hampshire.

More broadly, exit polls Tuesday showed Obama hung onto to his support among young voters — not necessarily college students — compared to 2008. In New Hampshire, 12 percent of voters Tuesday were between the ages of 18 and 24, and they backed Obama 67 to 30 percent. That was similar to the 2008 exit poll results.