NH voters end Register of Probate job, reject constitutional convention

In wake of judicial reorganization, decision sends position to history books
Dictionary Series: Probate

The Register of Probate position in New Hampshire soon will be no more, and the state won’t hold another constitutional convention in the near future, voters decided Tuesday, according to results from the Associated Press.

Both of the issues appeared as ballot questions during Tuesday’s midterms election. The AP called both of the contests shortly before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, when 72 percent of votes had been counted.

As of Thursday morning, with 88 percent of votes tallied, the question was approved by 62.7 percent of voters with 37.3 percent opposed.

The first question sought to relocate the title of Register of Probate to the state’s history books since, explained Anna Brown, director of research and analysis for the voter education nonprofit Citizens Count, the role had largely been removed of any responsibilities after a reorganization of the judicial branch.

Many voters might have had no idea that was what the question was about, however, Brown said.

“The question shows what the Constitution would look like if the phrase ‘Registers of Probate’ was removed, without ever saying the title. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of voters skipped the question or voted against it because they were not sure what the change entailed,” Brown said.

The second question, asking voters if they wished to hold a constitutional convention, is statutorily added to the ballot every 10 years, Brown said, though she didn’t know of any group advocating for its passage. She noted that voters haven’t approved of the measure since that last convention was held in 1982, and that the question was defeated by nearly two-thirds of voters in 2012.

Not much appears to have changed in voters’ sentiments on the question, as only 33.9 percent of voters favored a constitutional convention.

Had the question passed, it would have triggered a process in which voters would be asked to elect delegates to a convention. Any action taken at the convention would have to clear successive high bars, though, before becoming part of the state’s constitution. Three-fifths of the elected delegates would have to approve any proposed changes, then the proposals would need support from two-thirds of voters.

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