EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 6, 2012

Constitutional questions appear doomed

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie jmackenzie@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Proponents of two constitutional amendments and convening a constitutional convention may have struck out at the polls yesterday.

The constitutional amendments required two-thirds approval for passage, but neither appeared likely to achieve that. The third question, regarding convening a constitutional convention, required only a simple majority, but it, too, appeared destined to fail.

With 55 to 56 percent of the statewide vote counted, the income tax question had a 57 to 43 percent edge, not nearly enough for the two-thirds majority needed. The court oversight question didn’t even have a majority, with 55 percent of the vote in. The nays had 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent favoring the amendment.

And, the constitutional convention question appeared destined to fail miserably. With 55 percent of the vote in, 64 percent disapproved, with just 36 percent favoring it.

One question called for a constitutional ban on a state income tax, the other would have given the Legislature regulatory authority over the courts.

Prior to the election, political pundits agreed there were too many tight races on the ballot — and too many races altogether — for voters to pay much attention to what was happening at the bottom, the place for all three questions.

Some suggested many voters would simply skip those last three questions and it appears, in some communities, that forecast was accurate.

Take Hampstead, where 5,319 people cast ballots. By the time voters got to the bottom of the ballot, those numbers trailed off. Just 4,654 voted on the income tax question, 4,521 on the Legislature’s control over the courts ad fewer still — 4,514 — on the constitutional convention.

A majority of voters in Southern New Hampshire favored the constitutional amendments, but it didn’t appear there would be the needed two-thirds approval.

The call for a constitutional convention fared poorly, drawing more negative votes than supporters in most local towns.

Some opponents of the income tax question said they don’t want to see such a tax instituted here, but they also didn’t believe the way to prevent that from happening was by amending the state Constitution.

David Webber, head of Granite State Priorities, had this to say last month, “This is about principles. It really disrupts the Constitution. It’s especially unacceptable in 2012 to be trying to make decisions for people in 2050.”

Labor unions also opposed the income tax question.

David Lang, president of the Londonderry-based Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, said his group was against the measure.

“When you change the Constitution, it’s a very serious thing,” Lang said before the election. “For us, it’s, ‘Are you hurting a future generation?’ I don’t think we should make that decision for future generations.”

But the measure certainly had its supporters, including Americans for Prosperity - New Hampshire.

State director Corey Lewandowski of Windham said his group pushed for adoption of the income tax ban because a broad-based tax would give government more control over taxpayers’ money.

Kevin Smith, who lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Ovide Lamontagne, dedicated himself to pushing for passage.

“It preserves New Hampshire’s tax code that we have enjoyed for so long in this state,” he said before the vote. “It ensures that New Hampshire’s government remains small in size and limited in scope.”