The Bulletin Board

Bill moving state primary date to August headed for governor’s desk

By: - June 15, 2021 4:32 pm
A woman walks outside toward a polling place

House Bill 223 authorizes political parties to subscribe to a list of absentee ballot requests. (Getty Images)

Lawmakers have approved a proposal to move the state primary date to the first week of August in a compromise between negotiators from the House and the Senate on Tuesday.

House Bill 98 will now make its way to the governor’s desk. If signed into law, it would go into effect in January 2023. That date was a main sticking point in negotiations during a committee of conference on Tuesday.

Representatives from the House wanted the bill to go into effect in 2022, while the Senate’s position was that the new primary should not go into effect until 2023 – after redistricting has been completed.

“My concern is if we bring it back to 2022, and we have redistricting, I think it’s going to be a disaster,” said Sen. Regina Birdsell, a Hampstead Republican.

House Republicans pushed back.

“We’re moving the date in 2022 anyways by a week,” said Rep. Ross Berry, a Manchester Republican. Berry said he would rather have consistency from 2022 to 2024.

But concerns about timing with redistricting won out in the debate. Lawmakers agreed to take up a bill next session that would allow them to revisit the issue once redistricting is underway. Senators indicated that if redistricting is well underway, they would be open to implementing the change ahead of schedule.

“My compromise is, you know, accept the Senate position on this, and then we’ll work very diligently on the bill that you’ve retained in the House to fix any problems that can come up with that,” said Sen. James Gray, a Rochester Republican.

“It could even change the date of implementation,” he said.

The Senate was also amenable to the House’s request to move the primary up one more week from the second week in August to the first.

There was some urgency around moving the primary to an earlier date because of compliance with federal law regarding ballots that are getting mailed in from overseas, by people serving abroad in the military, for example.  

“Our state barely complies with federal law and getting those overseas ballots,” said Sen. Donna Soucy, a Manchester Democrat.

That’s one problem the new primary date, if signed into law, would address.

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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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