Each election cycle, political journalists make a late-night pilgrimage over icy roads to this Narnia-like region near the Canadian border, where the locals have a tradition of voting at midnight. When the clock strikes 12, a handful of voters traditionally gather at the Balsams Resort to cast ballots, giving them the bragging right of being the one of the first precincts to participate in the first-in-the-nation primary. The event is a celebration filled with food, drinks and live hook-ups for media trucks to broadcast the results around the world. (Not to mention the public relations boost for the resort.) And many presidential candidates historically made it a point to visit before the vote in hopes of securing the early-morning boost of winning the overnight vote. But last year, Dixville’s once-grand tradition appeared to be at risk. In 2011, the Balsams closed down, and employees who lost their jobs left the area. The remaining residents held a much smaller vote at the Balsams in 2012. This election cycle, only one candidate — Ohio Gov. John Kasich — has journeyed to these far northern reaches of the state.
A bill that would require a 30-day waiting period to vote was vetoed Friday by Gov. Maggie Hassan who said the bill places unreasonable restrictions on citizens’ voting rights. The bill also attempts to better define domicile for voting as the primary residence or abode. The change would more closely align domicile with a person’s residency. “The constitutional right of all citizens to vote is the most fundamental right of our democracy, and we must always be working to ensure that people who are legally domiciled in New Hampshire are not blocked from voting,” Hassan said in her veto statement. “Senate Bill 179 places unreasonable restrictions upon all New Hampshire citizens’ right to vote in this state with an arbitrary timeline that will prevent lawful residents from taking part in the robust citizen democracy that we are so proud of in the Granite State.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan is likely to veto legislation that would require people to live in New Hampshire for 30 days before they can vote in the state. Hassan’s office said Thursday she worries the bill will restrict people’s constitutional right to vote. The comments from her office came after a coalition of Democratic lawmakers, election workers and the American Civil Liberties Union called the bill unconstitutional. The Republican-controlled House and Senate both passed the bill earlier this year and Hassan could take action on it at any time. Besides requiring people to live in New Hampshire for 30 days before they can vote there, it outlines specific criteria election workers should evaluate when determining someone’s domicile for voting purposes, including whether the person is eligible for a resident hunting or fishing license or has a New Hampshire driver’s license.
The New Hampshire House passed a bill Wednesday that requires people to live in the state for 30 days before they are eligible to vote. It passed largely with support from Republicans. Senators passed the bill along party lines earlier this year, but the House bill further defines the factors that contribute to a person’s domicile, including whether someone pays taxes in New Hampshire, owns a hunting license or has a New Hampshire driver’s license. Currently, a person who is “domiciled” in the state can register and vote on the day of an election. Supporters of the House bill said they want to crack down on “drive by” voting and ensure people voting in New Hampshire elections actually live in the state. “This bill will ensure the people of New Hampshire decide our own elections, not out-of-state voters,” said Republican Rep. William Gannon of Sandown.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner is signaling support for a bill its sponsors said would crack down on so-called drive-by voting. Supporters of SB 179 said it would safeguard the integrity of New Hampshire elections, but others see it as a political ploy to keep some voters away from the polls. When Vice President Joe Biden’s niece, Alana Biden, cast a ballot in New Hampshire in 2012 after a short campaign stint, she didn’t break the letter of the law, but many think she violated the spirit of it. “When that happens, it hurts all of our votes,” Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Hudson, said. “It disenfranchises the people that really live here.”
From Pope Francis and President Obama to the kid down the block, we have, for better or worse, become a world full of selfie-takers. But as ubiquitous as they are, there are some places where selfies remain controversial — like the voting booth. The legal battle rages over so-called “ballot selfies” in the state that holds the first presidential primary. This may be a fight of the digital age, but according to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, it involves a very old American ideal — the sanctity of the secret ballot. “If somebody wants to go out and say that they voted for this person or that person they can do it. They can do it, but that ballot is sacred,” he says. Gardner has been the state’s top election official since 1976. To say he views ballot selfies with suspicion would be an understatement. He backed a change in law last year that made New Hampshire the first state to ban them explicitly.
Utah: New Hampshire to Utah: The first-in-the-nation primary is ours, back off | The Salt Lake Tribune
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is urging Utah lawmakers to reject a bill that would try to put the Beehive State ahead of Iowa or New Hampshire in the presidential primary race, arguing that New Hampshire’s 100-year-old contest is the best test of candidates. A House committee this week advanced HB410, providing that if Utah wanted to fund an early presidential primary, it must do so a week before any similar balloting. It’s a clear shot at New Hampshire and Iowa, both of which grab the attention of the national news media and major candidates for months. Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, says it’s unfair for those two states to always get the spotlight and Utah could actually play a role in electing the next president. But Gardner, who by law must place the New Hampshire primary a week before any similar contest, says his state’s contest allows all candidates to compete on the same level, working town markets and holding house parties instead of campaigning through major television ads and fly-in-fly-out stump speeches.
The New Hampshire legislature is in the early stages of considering an electoral novelty: allowing Granite State voters to cast their ballots for “none of the above.” It’s a great idea. Every state should consider similar legislation. The New Hampshire bill, proposed by state Rep. Charles Weed (D), is an unusual idea in American politics but not a unique one: Nevada has offered its voters a “none of the above” option in statewide races since 1976. The New Hampshire version appears to have “the proverbial snowball’s chance of passing the House,” says John DiStaso at the New Hampshire Union Leader. Weed’s stated motivation for a “none of the above” option is to give voters a way to lodge a meaningful protest vote. “Real choice means people have to be able to withhold their consent,” he tells The Associated Press. “You can’t do that with silly write-ins. Mickey Mouse is not as good as ‘none of the above.'” The arguments against the bill from Weed’s colleagues range from the absurd to the nonsensical. Secretary of State Bill Gardner, for example, says that voters won’t know what “none of the above” means, since ballots now list names left-to-right, not top-to-bottom.
Secretary of State William Gardner takes a dim view of congressional efforts to address with federal legislation the long lines some states saw at polling places during the November election. In his experience, he said, “One-size-fits-all usually fits very few.” The White House and some in Congress are pushing for changes to federal election laws, such as those involving early voting and online voter registration. But if such measures were to pass, Gardner said, “we would first work to get out of it like we did with the National Voter Registration Act.” New Hampshire got an exemption from that 1993 “motor-voter” law by passing same-day voter registration and making it retroactive to the date of the federal legislation. Gardner stressed that different states have very different cultures. “We are who we are because of our history,” he said. And, he said, “the federal government hasn’t had the best of track records when it comes to changing election laws for states. And I would prefer that the federal government stay out of this.”
Every two years, one of my favorite rituals of New Hampshire’s peculiar form of democracy is the recount. With 500 races on the ballot statewide, most of them in relatively small districts, there are dozens of races that come down to a very small number of votes. And every election, a few seats change hands once we get a closer look at the ballots. In fact, recounts in two state representative districts have already resulted in new winners.
New Hampshire: Attorney General to appeal judge’s order on out-of-state student voting | SeacoastOnline.com
The New Hampshire attorney general will appeal a Strafford County Superior Court ruling Monday that put on hold a new voter registration law that opponents claimed would disenfranchise nonresident college students. Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who supported the law that the Republican-dominated Legislature passed over Gov. John Lynch’s veto earlier this year, said he was told by the attorney general’s office that it would challenge Judge John Lewis’ decision. The ruling was issued after the state and the plaintiffs failed to come up with an agreement to remedy the dispute last week. In an eight-page decision, Lewis said the law did not pass “constitutional muster” and ordered the state to issue new voter registration forms without the language that required newly registered voters to acknowledge they are subject to all residency laws, including driver’s license and auto registration laws.
Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lewis ruled Monday that out-of-state students have the right to vote in New Hampshire, a decision immediately criticized by top Republican legislators. “New Hampshire citizens have a right to elect individuals of their own choosing,” House Speaker William O’Brien said in a joint statement with Senate President Peter Bragdon. “Allowing non-residents into New Hampshire to dictate who will be our presidential choice, who shall be our governor, and who shall represent us in the Legislature takes away our voting rights.” He added: “Legislating otherwise from the bench to say there are two classes of voters — all of us who reside in New Hampshire, and those residents of other states who choose to vote here because we are a battleground state — is judicial activism of the worst sort. The Supreme Court needs to act quickly to restore the voting rights of New Hampshire’s citizens” The law — passed in June by a Senate override of Gov. John Lynch’s veto — required people to sign a form declaring New Hampshire as their domicile.
In another significant accomplishment for the Republican-controlled Legislature, the Senate and House on Wednesday passed a law requiring people to present photo identification when voting, while adopting a last-minute amendment meant to ease concerns expressed by voting officials ahead of the November elections. The Senate voted 18-5 to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 289, which will require voters this November to show a photo ID or sign an affidavit. The House passed the bill 231-112. Both votes exceeded the two-thirds margin necessary for a veto override. The last-minute change concerned the kind of affidavit required of voters who do not have acceptable identification in this year’s elections. The Senate voted to reintroduce a bill it had tabled earlier in the session, House Bill 1354, and amend it to change all references to a “qualified voter affidavit” in SB 289 to “challenged voter affidavit.”
Oops. There’s another glitch in the voter ID bill that’s headed to the desk of Gov. John Lynch. The compromise bill enjoys strong Republican support in the House of Representatives and the Senate. But this was predicated on the measure not facing opposition from the city and town clerks across the state or Secretary of State Bill Gardner. That’s where the hang-up comes in. At the 11th hour, the legislation was changed by House and Senate negotiators. The key language deals with what happens at the general election this November if you don’t have an ID. The compromise requires that you have to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury that attests you are who you say you are and that you’re eligible to vote at the polling place. The clerks had wanted the affidavit to be the one the Senate had proposed for challenged voters.
A voter identification bill that had the support of the Senate, town clerks and the secretary of state’s office is in jeopardy because of changes made yesterday by a House committee, said Sen. Russell Prescott, a Kingston Republican and the bill’s sponsor. The House Election Law Committee voted 13-7 to require photo identification at the polls months earlier than clerks say is feasible, and to disallow students to use their IDs to vote. The changes, if passed by the full House, would take effect immediately, for this year’s general election. Prescott’s bill pushed the start date to elections after Jan. 2013, to give voters and clerks time to get used to the new requirements. “I worked really hard with (clerks and state officials) to make a clean voter ID bill,” Prescott said yesterday. “We have a bill I think a lot of people support. I am saddened that this amendment has passed.”
Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, unveiled a user-friendly voter ID bill Tuesday that could end years of partisan bickering and produce a new mandate for citizens at the polls. Prescott spent last month negotiating with and winning the support of Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office and the New Hampshire Town and Clerks Association for the framework of a law that would require voters to produce a photo of their likeness before getting a ballot, starting in 2016. “This bill is all about placing a face with a name,” Prescott told the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee Tuesday.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said Tuesday he will hold off making a final decision on the state’s presidential primary until next week. Gardner’s office had been working toward announcing the date as soon as Tuesday, but ultimately changed course and decided to wait until after the close of the two-week period when candidates can qualify for the state ballot.
Through Monday, 17 candidates — 15 Republicans and two Democrats — had done so by submitting a one-page declaration of candidacy and a $1,000 filing fee.
Gardner, empowered by state law to call what traditionally has been the nation’s first primary at the time of his choosing, is widely expected to set the contest for Jan. 10.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner was a stickler for the rules from the start. In 1976, after the state Legislature chose him to oversee state elections, the Republican speaker of the House moved to swear in Gardner, just 28, immediately, but the young Democrat asked whether that was proper procedure. Without realizing the microphone in front of them was on, the speaker sneered, “Do you want the job, kid, or not?”
Gardner did and, 35 years later, he still does. He’s the nation’s longest-serving secretary of state, and every four years his influence in election matters extends far beyond New Hampshire. State law requires that New Hampshire’s presidential primary be held at least seven days ahead of any other state, and it gives the secretary of state exclusive authority to select a date.
Political campaigners might get a break around the New Year, after all. In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner threatened to hold the state’s key early primary in December.
New Hampshire has held the first presidential primary of every election year since 1920. In 1975, it became New Hampshire state law that the primary take place seven days or more before similar elections that would challenge this position, Gardener stated.
Florida has moved its primary up to January 31, 2012. South Carolina set their date for January 21st and Nevada moved their caucuses up to January 14th — five weeks earlier than originally planned. This would make Tuesday, January 3rd the earliest day that New Hampshire could have their primary, the same date that Iowa is considering for their caucus.
Republicans are pressuring New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to put his state’s primary late enough to allow Iowa’s caucus to take place in January, and are threatening the state with the loss of its favored status as the first-in-the-nation primary if he doesn’t do so. Gardner, who is not affiliated with a political party, has the sole authority to set New Hampshire’s primary date. A spokesman in his office said he has no plans to make a decision before next week.
The Republican primary calendar was scrambled when Florida decided to move its primary up to Jan. 31, triggering a domino effect where the four early-voting states had to move their primaries and caucuses up. South Carolina scheduled its primary for Jan. 21, and Nevada announced Wednesday night that it would hold its caucus Jan. 14.
Amidst the ongoing controversies surrounding the Republican primary calendar — with Florida moving its contest to late January, and triggering a move up by the officially sanctioned early states — some people have probably wondered if it might be possible to come up with better ways to pick a presidential nominee. But is there, really? Already every cycle, the parties review the rules of their primary processes, and often make small or large adjustments. But can they produce major change?
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told TPM: “Well, would another commission be successful, when we’ve had a commission almost every four years going back for 30 years?” (For the history of the New Hampshire primary, see our post in which we interviewed Garder.)
And for his own part, Florida GOP chair Lenny Curry told TPM that the state is not trying to challenge New Hampshire’s spot as the first primary. “No way,” said Curry, explaining that “there’s a tradition there, there’s a history there. It’s important, and it matters, and it works. So by no means do we want to — that was never the intent.” So what does Florida want?
South Carolina Republicans will move their primary up to Jan. 21, making them the first domino to fall after Florida moved its date up to Jan. 31 last Friday and pushing the other early-voting states to schedule their dates even earlier in the month.
The state’s move will cost it half its delegates at the Republican National Convention because of Republican National Committee (RNC) rules designed to keep the primary process from interfering with the holiday season. But South Carolina’s response is just the first that ensures this will not happen — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada all plan to hold their primaries and caucuses before South Carolina’s.
South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly slammed Florida for its move during his announcement of South Carolina’s move. “Forty-nine states played pretty in the sandbox,” he said. “Only one did it wrong.
IN 2003, a University of New Hampshire poll asked respondents if they thought their vote was counted accurately. Compared to other states, New Hampshire polled exceptionally high. Elections are complex; there is no simple formula for capturing integrity in balloting rules. But if the recipe for the Granite State’s success were boiled down to two words, they would be “Bill Gardner.”
For someone who has held elected office for 35 years, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State is remarkably uninterested in publicity. A Democrat, he was first elected in 1976 when the state House handed him a surprise victory over an old-guard Republican. Every two years since, however, legislatures led by both Republicans and Democrats have found at least one thing they agree on: Gardner’s unparalleled stewardship of the office.
So when Gardner voiced concerns about a voter identification law moving through the New Hampshire legislature, both sides of the aisle took note. Governor Lynch vetoed the bill, but with 27 states now requiring voters to show ID at the polls, this is an issue whose time has come. On its face, voter ID adds a level of integrity to the system. If ID is required to board a plane or cash a check, why not to verify one’s status on election day?