By John Celock
The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted Wednesday to defeat bill that would allow 17 year olds to vote in primary elections and to allow straight ticket voting to return to the state.
Lawmakers used part of a marathon lawmaking session to defeat the two election bills. Under the 17 year old voting bill, those who would be 18 on the day of the general election would be allowed to vote in the primary that year, while the straight ticket voting bill would have returned the state to a practice eliminated in 2007.
“We need to pass this bill to show faith in our 18 year olds that if you can vote in the general you can vote in the primary,” Rep. Wayne Burton (D-Durham) said during the debate.
The 17-year-old voting bill was proposed by students at Merrimack High School who also testified in front of the House Election Law Committee in favor of the bill. Supporters said the bill would allow those who would be voting in the general election to have a say in the primary as well that year.
Opponents said the change would cause problems with administering elections in the state. They questioned if it would be just one primary or would presidential primaries be allowed as well. In addition they raised questions in terms of special elections being held on the same day as primary elections on how the 17 year olds would be handled on those days.
Burton told the House that New Hampshire’s deputy secretary of state had assured the committee that the law could be administered.
Rep. William Gannon (R-Sandown) told lawmakers that the straight ticket voting bill needed to be passed because it would increase voter participation. He said that voters are at times less education on those at the bottom of the ballot and it would help to have the option for them to vote straight ticket. Gannon cited his elderly father as an example.
Opponents said that the change back would cause problems for the state. On lawmaker said that in cases where voters can vote for more than one candidate for an office, a straight ticket voting option would hurt if a party did not field candidates for every available spot. He also said that voters should be looking at both sides.
I’d rather we have qualified candidates rather than all Republican or all Democrat,” the lawmaker said.