Plan to move primary gains
CONCORD – The state Senate voted to set the state primary date two weeks earlier despite the objection of Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who supports the century-old tradition of a vote in early September.
If signed into law, it would move this year’s state primary to Aug. 28 from Sept. 11.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said a state primary the last Tuesday in August would ensure ballots could be sent out early enough to get votes from military voters stationed overseas.
Bradley said his bill will not alter the nature of elections or the history of high turnouts.
“This is not going to change the culture of elections in New Hampshire. It’s a two-week move back; this is not a big deal,” Bradley said.
Sen. Raymond White, R-Bedford, said there’s no sound reason to change the tradition.
“I get concerned about making changes in this system that has been in place for 100 years. Why would we think to tinker with that?” White asked.
The bill passed 13-10, with five Republicans joining all five Democrats in opposition. The measure now goes over to the House of Representatives for review.
Sens. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua, and Jim Luther, R-Hollis, joined four other GOP senators who represent the Nashua area in favor of changing the primary date.
White, who represents Merrimack, was the lone opponent from the region.
Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, maintained changing the date is unnecessary and unwise.
“We should change things when change is needed, when change is required,” D’Allesandro said.
‘’Let’s not make a change just for the sake of making a change.”
Sen. Jack Barnes, R-Raymond, said Gardner is a respected authority on elections and he always nominates Gardner, a Manchester Democrat, for another two-year term.
“Tradition is very important, but we need to protect those who vote in the military so they can cast ballots in time,’’ Barnes said.
Sen. Amanda Merrill, D-Durham, said the state has made changes in past years to be in compliance with the federal Overseas Voters Act. A late August primary could actually hurt turnout as it’s a time when families are either on vacation or slowly preparing for the end of summer, she said.
“It could have a negative effect on voter turnout,” Merrill said. “The last week in August, I think, is a transition week for students and families. It is a time when everybody is getting acclimated to getting ready for fall.”
Sen. Fenton Groen, R-Rochester, said making the general election campaign longer could be a benefit to first-time or lesser-known candidates.
“This extra two weeks is good for challenges and gives them a chance to win,” Groen said.
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