My Turn: In New Hampshire, every vote really does matter

For the Monitor
Published: 8/16/2019 7:00:22 AM
Modified: 8/16/2019 7:00:11 AM

Every election year in New Hampshire, a few state races are decided by just a handful of votes.

In 2018, Republican Richard Beaudoin beat Democrat Gail Ober by just one vote to take a House seat in Laconia.

In 2016, several House races in Manchester and Nashua were each decided by six votes.

Exact ties also aren’t uncommon. When that happens, the secretary of state decides the winner by tossing dice in a bottle.

Every year there are multiple bills that are passed or defeated by just one legislator’s vote.

In 2019, the House overrode Gov. Sununu’s veto of a bill to repeal the death penalty by just one vote. If just one legislator had changed their vote on House Bill 455 that day, New Hampshire would still have the death penalty.

In 2018, the Senate voted 12-12 twice on a bill that would have prohibited Medicaid from paying for sex reassignment. Since they couldn’t break the tie, the bill died.

Citizens can also have a real impact after voting day by contacting legislators and urging them to vote one way or another. Legislators frequently change their minds on issues.

From the first vote in 2019 to the last, 35 representatives changed how they voted on repealing the death penalty – and remember that bill became law by just one vote.

The Legislature voted to pass stricter voter registration laws in 2017 through Senate Bill 3. Three legislators who voted against that bill also voted against an attempt to repeal it in 2019.

In 2017, representatives voted to table a bill that would have added gender identity to anti-discrimination laws. Tabling is essentially a polite way to kill a bill. However, in 2018, 31 of those representatives voted to pass the bill.

The bills legislators vote on in Concord have daily impacts on voters’ lives.

In 2020, the Legislature will vote on a proposed 6-cent gas tax increase. That would be about 75 cents more each time you go to the gas pump – but it might also provide critical funding to keep roads safe.

The Legislature also recently passed a bill to raise the minimum wage, which could lift up thousands of low-wage workers – and maybe also increase the prices you see at restaurants and other businesses.

A lot of residents are also fired up by the idea of banning plastic bags and straws. The Legislature will reconsider that issue in 2020.

(Anna Brown is the director of research and analysis at Citizens Count, a Hampton-based nonprofit that provides objective information about New Hampshire issues, candidates and elections, and helps people connect with their elected officials. Visit CitizensCount.org.)




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