By GARRY RAYNO
Figures released after the state primary election by the Secretary of State’s Office indicate that almost one-quarter of a million voters have been removed from checklists across the state since the 2020 general election.
The voting rolls are generally purged every 10 years of those who have not voted in a number of elections or died or moved and did not inform the state.
After the 2020 general election, there were 1.12 million voters in the state, but now there are 879,279 voters on checklists following the primary election earlier this month.
However, the political divisions among voters has changed little even with the purge.
Democrats still outnumber Republicans, and undeclared or independent voters are still the largest block, which was the case after the general election as well.
But since the general election, there are 116,679 fewer undeclared voters on the rolls, 65,722 fewer Democrats and 57,552 fewer Republicans.
According to information from the Secretary of State’s Office, there are now 275,613 registered Republicans, 282,106 Democrats and 321,560 undeclared voters.
The numbers indicate Democrats have a 6,493 advantage over Republicans, while undeclared voters hold a 39,454 advantage over Democrats.
The information from the Secretary of State’s Office indicates 3,893 Republicans took advantage of the state’s election day registration, as did 38,786 Democrats and 21,967 undeclared voters. The total number of voters registering at the polls was 64,646, which was down from the 2020 general election when it was 75,611.
You can see why Republicans might want to end the practice the state instituted to avoid having to adhere to the federal motor-voter registration law enacted after the 2000 elections.
During the 2022 primary, 44,378 undeclared voters took Republican ballots, and 23,559 undeclared voters took Democratic ballots.
Of the 67,937 undeclared voters who had to declare a party, 52,962 returned to undeclared status after voting, about 15,000 remaining on party rolls as Democrats or Republicans.
It should not be surprising undeclared voters took Republican ballots almost two-to-one over Democratic ones because all the action was in Republican primaries.
The votes cast indicate the greater interest in the Republican nominations as well with 147,501 Republican ballots and 96,275 Democratic ballots cast in the primary.
Only in Cheshire and Grafton counties were more Democratic votes cast than Republicans, where there were more races to choose from and voters could make a difference.
The nominations for US Senate and the two Congressional seats were all hotly contested with large fields on the Republican side.
For Democrats the first interesting race on the ballot was for the nomination for the District 2 Executive Council seat between incumbent Cinde Warmington and former councilor Michael Cryans, but it was lopsided when the votes were counted.
There was only one contested Democratic state Senate race in District 10 and a few good races for House seats, particularly in Manchester where some Free Staters were running as Democrats for several seats.
The Republicans had several contested state Senate races and other House races that drew attention, such as in Belknap County.
The county has made headlines recently when its all Republican House delegation pushing for turning the much-loved Gunstock Mountain Ski and Recreation Area over to the private sector to run.
A number of Free Staters or Libertarians have decided to use the county government as an example of what they would like to see, and it also impacted the county nursing home, sheriff’s office and county jail.
A group called Citizens for Belknap formed a bi-partisan political action committee and targeted some of the leaders of the move to smaller government like Reps. Michael Silvia of Belmont and Norm Silber of Gilford and several others for defeat in the primary and were successful.
Looking at the number of undeclared voters taking Republican ballots in Belmont — 243 versus 36 Democrat — shows why Silvia had a problem. Similar numbers in Gilford where Silber finished last in a multi-candidate district — 654 to 106 — show why he and several others who failed to win re-nomination and will not be going back to Concord.
Numbers can tell you lots of things.
For example, Keene Mayor George Hansel was recruited by Gov. Chris Sununu to run for the Congressional District 2 nomination to take on incumbent Ann McLane Kuster.
Hansel, as a Republican, successfully ran for mayor in what is a heavily Democratic city, and the conventional wisdom was he would be the moderate in a race with very conservative candidates and would have a shot at unseating Kuster in the general election, more so than the others would.
It was a strategy that worked to replace US Rep. Dick Swett a number of years ago, with then Republican State Committee Chair Steve Duprey cleared the path for moderate Charlie Bass to win the primary and then the general election. He remained in Washington DC until Kuster beat him a decade ago.
However, looking at the number of undeclared voters taking Republican ballots in Keene was, with one exception in Ward 5, lower than the number of undeclared voters taking Democratic ballots.
That is not the kind of showing in your hometown you would want to see if you are going to be victorious in the rest of the district.
Not surprisingly, the greatest number of undeclared voters taking party ballots occurred in the state’s two biggest counties, Rockingham and Hillsborough.
According to the latest information, both counties have more Republicans than Democrats, with Republicans having a 4,000 voter advantage in Rockingham, but only several hundred in Hillsborough. Undeclared voters remain the biggest block in both counties, with an 17,000 advantage in Hillsborough, but only a little over 2,000 in Rockingham.
Both counties also saw the greatest number of undeclared voters picking a party primary and voting, but also the greatest number of people returning to the undeclared ranks for the next election.
Some counties show a large Republican advantage such as Belknap and Carroll, while Democrats dominate Cheshire, Grafton and Strafford counties, the rest fairly evenly divided from the new checklist information.
The large number of undeclared voters are always the unknown in any election and how they will vote.
But it is clear that undeclared voters determine who wins in the general election and candidates unable to draw a significant number to their cause do not stand a chance.
What is also clear is that neither party should be able to consolidate control in Concord.
However, the gerrymandering done this year will ensure the state Senate and Executive Council will be solidly Republican for years to come, while the House could flip back and forth a couple of times in the next decade.
However, election results will not really reflect the will of the people of New Hampshire and that disenfranchises a majority of the state’s population and leads to government by the minority.
Ten years ago after the last redistricting, Democrats received more votes than Republican state Senate candidates, but were in a 13-11 minority.
However 10 years ago, in a similar situation as today, the House flipped to Democratic control.
The results will be known in a little less than two months.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.