Bill would ease process for post-primary party switches in N.H.

Associated Press
Published: 1/22/2020 12:50:24 PM

New Hampshire voters who want to switch political parties after voting in a primary election would have an easier path under a bill before a Senate committee Wednesday.

Currently, the deadline to change parties before a primary is the day before the filing period opens for candidates to get on the ballot. For the upcoming Feb. 11 presidential primary, that was Oct. 25.

Those who aren’t affiliated with either party can temporarily declare themselves Democrats or Republicans to vote in the primary and then switch back to “undeclared” immediately after. But there’s no such provision for someone who shows up at the polls registered with one party and wants to switch to the other after voting.

The Senate Election Law Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill that would allow any primary voter to either switch parties after voting or become undeclared.

“You could go from Democrat to undeclared, or Republican to Democrat, or Republican to undeclared, or Democrat to Republican, whichever you wish to do,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst.

Those kinds of requests come up quite frequently, said Jeanne Ludt, an election official in Amherst.

“It seems unusual, but they do,” she said. “So we want to make sure that whatever we have allows them to do whatever they want to do.”

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan did not take a position on the bill, but said he saw no reason why members of political parties shouldn’t have the same opportunity as undeclared voters to make changes after casting their ballots.

“It is important that before the act of voting that people who are registered with a party are locked in from the day before the filing period until the primary,” he said. “The reason for that is to prevent games from being played with migrations from a party where there might be an uncontested race or races on the ballot moving into the other party to try to impact the outcome for that party’s primary.”

That’s what New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley apparently had in mind in October, when he was urging Republicans to re-register as undeclared and then vote in the Democratic presidential primary.

“To all the N.H. Republicans angry that their party has rigged the election for the corrupt, cruel and incompetent Trump, change to “Undeclared” and use your chance to vote for change, a vote that matters, for one of the 18+ amazing Dem candidates in the N.H. Primary!” he said in a tweet.

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