The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

"The vote is not just a right, but an obligation." Q & A with @UNH Law Professor John Greabe '85

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John Greabe ‘85, Professor of Law at UNH and Appellate Attorney, came to Dartmouth this week to discuss the New Hampshire Voter Identification Law recently approved by the Department of Justice. Greabe has nearly seventeen years of experience clerking for federal appeals and trial court judges for the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He now teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure at the University of New Hampshire. Before his lecture entitled “How the Voting Law Affects You?,”  Bridget Golob ’14 sat down with John Greabe to talk more about his experiences with Dartmouth, his contributions to the fields of law and academia, and his perspective on the new voter identification law in New Hampshire.

Bridget Golob (BG): I see that you were a Classics major while at Dartmouth. How did that prepare you for a career in law? If you had not entered the practice and teaching of law, where would life have taken you?

John Greabe (JG): I was a Classics major in the Dartmouth Class of 1985. My decision to major in Classics was ultimately due to my interest in classical studies, which my Jesuit high school emphasized. I do think it helped prepare me for my career in law. For me, Classics seemed to incorporate drama, history, political science and the humanities into one. Also, learning Latin – an inflected language – required an analytic eye and strong analytic skills that apply directly to my work today as well as to legal language.

Throughout my time at Dartmouth, I often thought about law school. Immediately after graduating, I began pursuing my J.D. from Harvard Law School. Looking back, I would have preferred to take some time off. At the time, corporate law was very big and that was not necessarily what I was interested in. I also considered being a teacher but did not think seriously about it as a profession until after much later.

(BG): What do you believe has been your most impactful contribution to the world of law or academia?

(JG): I worked for 17 years as a clerk in the federal court system and I drew great satisfaction from the teaching impact I had as a permanent clerk who trained newer clerks and interns. I find that same satisfaction as a Professor at the University of New Hampshire.

(BG): Coming back to campus, what are the biggest changes to Dartmouth that you have seen or heard about?  Is there anything that you miss (buildings, organizations, traditions)?

(JG): I love Dartmouth. I remember having courses with only four or five students in them and really appreciate that intimate setting. I have friends from Dartmouth I’ve kept over the years. My son, Nathaniel just started his first term at Dartmouth as a ’16. Since coming back, I’ve noticed much more of an international presence, higher level of diversity, and a lot of new infrastructure. It wasn’t like that before. The school has become more connected to the broader world. Additionally, while Greek life remains the largest social option on campus, other social outlets are available more so than in the past, which is great.

(BG): What can students in New Hampshire do to learn about and do more to advocate for/against the new voter identification law here?

First, I would like to say that franchise has been hard won in history. Historically, only landed men could vote. Then think back to when women won the vote and to Civil Rights era legislation. The universal right to vote for those over the age of 18 has really only come about in the last century. Our Constitution’s first three words are ‘We the people’ and I take that to mean that we rule ourselves.

In looking at the New Hampshire Voter ID Law and the ‘domicile test’, it seems unnecessary, un-American, and driven by partisan desires to keep students from voting in New Hampshire. The fact is, many students will not be returning to their home states after college. College students should vote in the state where they live for four years, in other words, their domicile. Many students may feel like disfavored voters, but they should get more involved and take the vote seriously. There is a lot of information available through the League of Women Voters and the Office of the Secretary of State.

The people of New Hampshire want moderation. I believe the goals of the State House of Representatives and the population of New Hampshire as a whole should line up more. The predecessor to this bill, which was more stringent, was changed largely because students from around the state – at Keene State College and Dartmouth College – protested in Concord and gave a lot of energy to the idea that people should defend their civil rights. Students can change this new law and others by voting.

(BG): If you were a Dartmouth student now, would you change your state residency to NH in order to vote in the presidential election here? Why or why not?

Yes. People should be doing what is patriotic and what supports our country by voting and should not cede anything – or have to. The vote is not just a right, but an obligation.

A recap of the lecture can be found The Dartmouth's website

This post is part of a new series featuring Rocky student leaders engaging with special guests on campus.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences