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House bill looks to bring back straight-ticket option for N.H. ballots

Four Republican state representatives are trying to bring back straight-ticket voting, which New Hampshire abandoned in 2007.

Rep. Fred Rice, a Hampton Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors, told the House Election Law Committee yesterday that the straight-ticket option is a “non-partisan partisan measure” that could speed up voting and help reduce long lines at the polls, such as those seen during November’s high-turnout presidential election.

“There are a number of voters who go into the polls and they say, ‘I know in advance, I’ve studied, I’ve made up my mind and I know that I certainly want to vote for all one party or the other,’ whatever their party may be. For them, this is a convenience,” Rice said.

But Rep. Peter Schmidt, a Dover Democrat, testified against the bill yesterday, saying convenience shouldn’t “override what should be a careful selection” when voters go to the polls.

“The idea that for pure convenience they’re going to check off one party or the other, and you give votes to candidates they have no knowledge of whatsoever, I think is not in the best interests of our republic,” Schmidt said.

Rep. Jeanine Notter, a Merrimack Republican, is the prime sponsor of HB 143 and said she introduced the bill at the request of a constituent. The three co-sponsors are Rice, Republican Rep. Lenette Peterson of Merrimack and Rep. Donald LeBrun, a Nashua Republican.

The bill would allow voters to make a single mark indicating a vote for every candidate of a given party on the ballot. Voters would still have the option of voting for a candidate from a different party, canceling the straight-ticket vote for that office.

Fifteen states offer voters the option of casting a straight-party ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Hampshire eliminated the option in 2007.

The Election Law Committee heard testimony yesterday but didn’t vote. It will meet at a later date to debate the bill and make a recommendation to the full House.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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