NH Senate votes to move state primary from September to June

A historical marker displayed outside the Statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire, on Nov. 15, 2023, describes the history of the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

A historical marker displayed outside the Statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire, on Nov. 15, 2023, describes the history of the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer) Courtesy

By HOLLY RAMER

Associated Press

Published: 02-08-2024 11:24 AM

CONCORD, N.H. — Both the New Hampshire House and Senate agree that the short window between the primary and general election for state and local offices should be widened, but they have different dates in mind.

In contrast to its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, New Hampshire has one of the nation’s latest primary elections for other offices. Under current law, the state primary is held the second Tuesday in September, just eight weeks before the general election. The House passed a bill last month that would move the date to the third Tuesday in August, but the Senate passed its own measure Thursday that would move it to the second Tuesday in June.

Sen. Daryl Abbas said the earlier date would help voters make more informed choices in November and would give candidates more time to broaden their messages beyond their party bases.

“Having three more months of campaign time will afford candidates multiple opportunities for the public to get to know them and understand their position on important issues,” he said.

Republican Sen. Regina Birdsell spoke against the bill, arguing it would hurt incumbent senators who would still be at the Statehouse while their opponents were on the campaign trail. The legislative session generally ends in late June.

“Our opponents are out there campaigning while we’re trying to do our business, so I am very concerned that this just gives a disadvantage to us,” said Birdsell, a Republican from Hampstead.

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Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill in 2021 that would have moved the state primary to the first Tuesday in August. At the time, he said the election should not be moved to the middle of summer when voters are focused on vacations, not politics. He also said that moving the date to the summer could make it harder for communities to recruit poll workers and election day volunteers.