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In states, parties clash over voting laws that would affect college students, others

"There's no doubt that this bill would help Republican causes," said Richard Sunderland III, head of the College Republicans at Dartmouth College. But, he added, "this doesn't help if the Republican Party wants to try to win over people in the 18-to-24 age range."

After posting O'Brien's comments about college students on the Internet, state Democratic Party officials accused the GOP of pushing the legislation to rig elections. Voting rights advocates have noted that the courts have affirmed the rights of students to vote where they live.

A spokeswoman for O'Brien said he had not endorsed specific legislation but had spoken out in favor generally of tightening state voting laws.

Same-day registration "coupled with a lax definition of residency creates an environment in which people may be claiming residency in multiple locations," O'Brien said in a written statement from his office. He added that changing the law "is not an idea targeting any particular political party or ideology."

Still, the sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Gregory Sorg, addressing a packed public hearing room late last month, focused his ire directly at the college set.

Average taxpayers in college towns, he said, are having their votes "diluted or entirely canceled by those of a huge, largely monolithic demographic group . . . composed of people with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce."

Their "youthful idealism," he added, "is focused on remaking the world, with themselves in charge, of course, rather than with the mundane humdrum of local government."

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