The Bulletin Board

New Hampshire said no to a constitutional convention, preserved the register of probate

By: - November 14, 2022 11:00 am

Voters fill out their ballots in Dover on Tuesday, Nov. 8. (Kate Brindley | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Voters rejected two ballot questions in last week’s election, deciding not to hold a convention to suggest changes to the state constitution and not to get rid of the register of probate, a position stripped of its primary duties over a decade ago.

The state’s last constitutional convention was held in 1984, but people on both sides of the aisle agreed that now is not the right time to hold another one. The measure was defeated by a wide margin, with around 66 percent voting against and 34 percent voting in favor. Both Democrats and Republicans expressed concern about revising one of the state’s most important documents at a time of political polarization. They cited doubts that a convention featuring 400 citizen representatives from around the state would be able to find much common ground.

The question of whether to hold a convention has to be put to voters at least every 10 years, but it could come up again sooner than that, if the Legislature takes it up. The question would’ve required a simple majority to pass.

And voters decided that the register of probate position will remain, although most of the duties associated with that position were removed in a 2011 court restructuring. The measure fell short of the two-thirds majority required to pass by around 3 points. Before 2011, register of probate was a salaried, professional position, and registers would assist citizens navigating the probate court. That court handles estates, wills, adoption, and guardianship.   

The 2011 restructuring removed the position’s salary, office, duties, and telephone, but since it’s mentioned in the constitution, elections for the office are still held in each county. Some in favor of preserving the register position argue that its duties should be restored, as people would provide better customer service than the call center that took their place.

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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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