Posted on February 28, 2017 at 4:55 PM
Senior Vice President
Open Primaries Congratulates New Hampshire Lawmakers in Standing for Fair and Open Elections
New York – February 23, 2017 – – Open Primaries, a national organization dedicated to protecting and expanding open primary systems and enhancing voter power, applauds the members of the New Hampshire House Election Law Committee for soundly rejecting, in a 20-0 vote, an attempt to close New Hampshire’s primaries to independent voters. Representative Norman Silber’s bill, HB642*, would have instituted a series of restrictions on voting and voter choice including abandoning same day voter registration and placing burdens on student voting.
Representative Silber’s attempts to close the New Hampshire primaries would have had profound consequences for representative democracy in New Hampshire. There are 404,000 independent voters in New Hampshire, constituting 41% of all registered voters; the largest group of voters in the state. HB642 would have shut these voters out of every future primary election in the state despite the fact that primary elections are taxpayer funded.
The national consequences would have been negative. The New Hampshire primary is the first in a series of nationwide primary elections and as such has an oversize role in choosing front runners for the general election and in testing candidate’s abilities to connect with independent voters. Just over 500,000 registered voters participated in the 2016 New Hampshire Presidential Primary in 2016. By shutting out 404,000 New Hampshire independents, Representative Silber’s bill would have serious repercussions for future Presidential races.
Representative Silber’s attacks on democracy in New Hampshire are by no means alone. Bills to close primary elections have been introduced in Missouri, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia in just the last two months. These attacks come on the heels of a Presidential primary that disenfranchised over 26 million independents from voting in primary elections that were paid for with taxpayer dollars.
“Independent voters in New Hampshire have a long tradition of voting in primaries, which puts us at a higher voter participation rate than other closed primary states. Voting rights should be expanded, not contracted. NH independents aren’t straight ticket voters and don’t want to be confined to a box, but we should still get as much say as any other voter in each part of our public election process. We’re grateful that the New Hampshire legislature sees the integral role independents have in choosing candidates for the final ballot, and we look forward to continuing improved voter access for everyone in our state” said Tiani Coleman, President, New Hampshire Independent Voters.
“All over the country, state legislators are introducing bills to restrict voting in primaries. Why? Because the American people thumbed their noses at both the Republican and the Democratic establishments in 2016. When political insiders are threatened, they look for ways to disempower the voters. It’s a credit to the New Hampshire legislature and the people of New Hampshire that this highly partisan effort by Rep. Silber was overwhelmingly rejected,” remarked John Opdycke, President, Open Primaries.
- Available for local interview: Tiani Coleman, Amherst. President, New Hampshire Independent Voters.
*Representative Norman Silber (R) introduced HB642 as a bill relating to voter eligibility and student identification cards. The bill would have closed New Hampshire’s primary, gotten rid of same day voter registration, modified the definition of domicile for voting purposes, and would have made some higher education institutions indicate whether a student is a New Hampshire resident. The bill as a whole, aimed to place more restrictions on voting.
Open Primaries is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization working to enact open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters, train and support spokespeople, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions. Open Primaries is a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote.