The Bulletin Board

Bill moves state primary from September to June

By: - April 14, 2021 4:11 am
The New Hampshire State House dome

In an 11-10 vote on Tuesday, the committee gave its stamp of approval to House Bill 549, as amended by the committee’s chair, Rep. Michael Vose. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

New Hampshire’s state primary is currently one of the latest in the country. It is one of only four states that hold primaries after August. Last week, the House passed House Bill 98, which would move the primary up from the second Tuesday in September to the fourth Tuesday in June.

Some political analysts say that it makes it easier for incumbents, who already have name recognition with voters, to get re-elected.

With only seven to eight weeks between the primary and general election, candidates don’t have enough time to raise money, figure out a campaign strategy, and win the support of voters, said Rep. Fenton Groen, a Rochester Republican who serves on the House Election Law Committee.

“This simply does not allow enough time,” he said. If the bill passes, candidates would have 19 to 20 weeks between the primary and general election.

Democratic opposition to the bill focused on a potential conflict with Town Meeting Day – an annual feature that sets New England states apart from other regions. New Hampshire towns can schedule their meetings in March, April, or May.

“It’s not a good time of year to schedule filing periods for state office,” said Rep. Paul Bergeron, a Nashua Democrat.

But Groen said the timeline wouldn’t create a conflict for most towns in the state, where town meeting is held before the filing date – the fourth Wednesday in April.

“I think the effect would be minimal on that,” he said.

While the bill would give candidates more time to campaign after the primary, Bergeron said it would give independent and third-party candidates less time to collect nomination papers and signatures.

Previous attempts to pass similar legislation have failed. The bill is now before the Senate, where it has been referred to the Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.

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