The preliminary rounds are over
Now it’s time to take on the business of governing
The general election in November was not the end of the story. Since then, recounts have occurred, the Legislature has organized and elected state officers, a committee of the Democratic National Committee has dropped a bombshell, and Concord seems ready for the business of government to commence after the upcoming holidays.
There were over 20 recounts requested after the election.
The recounts resulted in a change in the winner in one House district in the North Country, one tie for a seat in Rochester, a reversal of a seat in Ward 6 in Manchester, only to be reversed again at another recount ordered by the Superior Court, and the discovery of over 25 uncounted absentee ballots in a race in Brentwood. Several of these were appealed to the state Ballot Law Commission.
When all this smoke cleared, it was apparent that Republicans controlled the Senate, 14-10. In the House, its margin was just 201-198, with one race, the tie, to be decided.
On Dec. 7, the Legislature met to organize. Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro was elected president of the Senate. In a tight race, Speaker Sherman Packard was reelected by a margin of 205-184, which, due to a number of absences of members from both parties, meant that several Democrats had voted for Packard, an interesting development.
While all this was going on, the Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee, at the suggestion of President Biden, voted for a new schedule of presidential primaries for the 2024 election cycle. Rather than the traditional Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary leading the parade, its approved suggestion puts South Carolina first, New Hampshire and Nevada second a couple of weeks later, and then the rest in a rather familiar grouping of a number of states at a time. Interestingly, however, this was conditioned upon state officials agreeing to the plan, the Legislature enacting legislation adopting it, and an agreement for early voting in states which did not have it.
Otherwise, in the case of New Hampshire, its primary would be on Super Tuesday, much later in the calendar.
New Hampshire officials of both parties immediately called foul. They had no warning of the proposal. As all those commenting pointed out, state law calls for the secretary of state to set the primary at least a week before any similar contest.
Former Sen. Jim Splaine of Portsmouth, author of the legislation which set that rule, commented, “The Democratic National Committee did not give us the primary, and they are not going to take it away.” That is absolutely true, given the history of how primaries evolved as creatures of state practice and then law.
More importantly, the likelihood that Republican officials would consent to the plan is zero. As to the early voting requirement, our requirements are in the constitution of the state, and it would take years to change the Constitution, so the conditions set by the Democrats are impossible, making some wonder if they were set intentionally to put New Hampshire even further back in the pack.
There was much speculation about whether the full DNC will adopt the plan approved in committee, and if it does, whether it would be able to make the requirement stick and deprive New Hampshire and other non-compliant states of their delegates, or prevent candidates from campaigning here if state law is applied, as it appears almost certain it will be.
Obviously, it is too soon to tell, but more than one observer questioned the wisdom of the president and his party causing such a ruckus in the first place, especially in a place with the rich history of retail politics in primaries and, ironically, when Joseph Biden as the incumbent president in 2024 might be set up to win his first New Hampshire Primary ever. Time will tell.
Now the real work of governing begins, the preliminary rounds having ended.
Brad Cook is a Manchester attorney, chair of the state Ballot Law Commission and co-chair of the Secretary of State’s Voter Confidence Committee. The views expressed in this column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.