EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 5, 2012

N.H. voters face big decisions

By John Toole jtoole@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Three ballot questions face voters today in addition to big decisions about president, governor and Congress.

Question 1 asks voters to ban an income tax in New Hampshire. Question 2 would give the Legislature the authority to regulate courts. Question 3 asks if a convention should be held to amend the state Constitution.

All three questions face a tough test: Two-thirds voter approval is needed for passage.

Brouchures from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office that explain the questions will be available from election workers at polling places.

Polls show close contests for the major offices.

President Obama, a Democrat, is opposed by Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maggie Hassan is opposing Republican gubernatorial nominee Ovide Lamontagne to replace Gov. John Lynch. Hassan is a former state senator. Lamontagne was the 2010 runner-up in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, losing to Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Rematches for Congress pit Republican incumbent Congressman Charles Bass and Democrat challenger Ann McLane Kuster in the 2nd District and Republican incumbent Congressman Frank Guinta against Democratic former Congressman Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st District.

There is no U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire this year. The seat held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen will be up in the 2014 election cycle. Ayotte’s seat will be up in 2016.

Voters also will elect a new Legislature, Executive Council and fill county offices in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties.

The Secretary of State’s Office has predicted record turnout, about 722,000 voters.

“I’m hoping turnout will be better than expected and people realize how important this election is, not only on the national level but the state level,” League of Women Voters of New Hampshire co-president Liz Tentarelli said yesterday.

New Hampshire’s Legislature made many significant changes in the past two years and the Executive Council, which approves contracts, effectively made state policy by refusing to approve some contracts this term, she said.

Whether voters agree or disagree with those actions, this is their chance for their voices to be heard, Tentarelli said.

In fact, that is the league’s slogan: “Your vote is your voice.”

A member of the league sent Tentarelli a message yesterday that she had to share: “You can groan or you can gloat, but you can’t do either if you don’t vote.”

Atkinson town moderator Jim Garrity has some advice for voters.

“Do your homework,” Garrity said.

Voters who want to review the ballot before going to the polls should visit the Secretary of State’s website, sos.nh.gov, which has sample ballots for all New Hampshire communities. Ballots also are posted at local polling places today, Garrity said.

Voters may need to be patient.

“Be ready for a potential line, especially in rush hour,” Garrity said.

Peak times would be 7 this morning, before people go to work, then at lunchtime, right after school and again at night when people get out of work.

This is a presidential election, which always brings out the most voters.

“It will be heavy all day,” Garrity said.

Election workers will be requesting voter IDs today.

“Have your photo ID ready,” Garrity recommends.

That will get you through voting sooner, he said.

Want your vote to count?

“Color inside the dot,” Garrity said. “Follow the directions.”

Voters in most towns will have a chance to help community causes outside the polls. Often tables are set up by school or other civic groups.

In Atkinson, a group of a dozen students from the Advanced Placement government class will be assisting voters as greeters. They will help people get in the right line or find parking spots, Garrity said.

Voters need to be careful driving around polling places, even where police are directing traffic.

“Be slow, especially after dusk,” Garrity said. “People are crossing the parking lot to get in the building.”

One more piece of advice: No campaigning in the polling place.

That’s right, you shouldn’t be wearing a button for your candidate when you go inside to vote. It’s not just bad form, it’s against the law, Garrity said.

“Cover it up before you come in the building,” he said. “Otherwise we might have to tell you to turn that lapel backward.”

The New Hampshire Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire have set up election inquiry and complaint lines. Both will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The phone line for the attorney general is 1-866-868-3703. The phone line for the U.S. attorney is 715-6355.

Complaints also may be emailed to electionlaw@doj.nh.gov and by visiting usdoj.gov/usao/nh and clicking the “email us link.”