Voters fill out their ballots in Dover on Tuesday, Nov. 8. (Kate Brindley | New Hampshire Bulletin)
Republicans have secured a slim 201 to 198 majority in the New Hampshire House after a review of contested ballots left recount results intact Monday.
The fate of one House seat is still undecided after a recount found Democrat Chuck Grassie and Republican David Walker had tied, each receiving 970 votes. The Ballot Law Commission reviewed four ballots in that race where a question had been raised about voter intent, but the review didn’t break the tie.
Ballots reviewed in the Coos District 7 (Berlin) race left Democrat Eamon Kelley’s win unchanged. Democrat Eric Turer’s victory in Rockingham District 6 (Brentwood) was also unchanged after 27 absentee ballots discovered after the recount were counted Monday.
Now, it’s up to the Legislature to determine how to resolve the tied race, with three possible paths for determining the winner: lawmakers could vote to seat Grassie or Walker, order a run-off election, or split the seat between the two representatives.
Only the first two are viable options, according to Paul Smith, the New Hampshire House Clerk. He said the seat-sharing arrangement last occurred in 1954 but raised problems.
“When it was done, it was technically not proper because they gave each person a whole vote which set House membership to 401, which is frankly unconstitutional,” said Smith. And, he said, times have changed – like introducing an electronic system for voting that has made roll call votes much more common than when they were conducted verbally in the fifties.
“It’s a different animal,” Smith said.
Alternatively, the Legislature could pass a resolution to create a special election, which last occurred in 1992. Smith said this is the option that’s been used most recently and most frequently to resolve tied races.
The Legislature will meet on Dec. 7 for organization day, at which point they can take action on the tied race, in addition to electing House leadership and the secretary of the state.
With such a closely divided House, attendance will play a key role in outcomes. Smith has already heard from “a couple” representatives who will be unable to attend organization day. He declined to say how many or their party affiliation.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.