By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — New Hampshire is likely to have a new date for its primary election beginning with the 2024 elections.
The Senate Thursday approved moving the state primary date from the second Tuesday in September to the second Tuesday in August.
The change would give candidates more time to raise money, mend fences and convince voters to vote for them, according to supporters of the change. With only seven or eight weeks between the primary and the general elections, often incumbents face an uphill battle, they said.
New Hampshire is one of only five states to hold a primary in September. Most states hold primaries in June or before.
Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, said the state’s primary often comes up against the deadline to send ballots overseas, particularly for military personnel.
Ballots have to be sent at least 45 days before an election and if there is a recount, that can be a problem, said Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester.
The House-passed bill would establish the primary on the second Tuesday in June, but Soucy said many town clerks are also tax collectors and that would make it very difficult to do both at that time.
To the extent there are multi-candidate races, she said, she expects the amount of state voters would not drop off for an August primary.
The House and Senate will have to decide which date would go forward before the bill would go to the governor.
The Senate also approved House Bill 291, which would require the attorney general to review the state voter database for instances of multiple absentee ballots sent to one address and if there is an abnormal number of absentee ballots requested from one city or town.
But Soucy said the bill is a solution in search of a problem.
The bill does not improve actions already taken to clean up the voter rolls, she said, or target voter fraud.
The bill was approved down party lines on a 14-10 vote.
It will have to go back to the House because of changes the Senate made.