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New Hampshire

October 28, 2012

Constitutional amendments face uphill battle in N.H.

Income tax ban, legislative power at stake

When Granite Staters fill out their ballots next week, most probably won't hesitate when making their choices for president or governor.

When looking down the ballot, chances are they will probably have no problem choosing other candidates as well. Then, there are the three questions.

The three questions — including two constitutional amendments that proponents say if approved, will help protect New Hampshire tradition.

Political analysts say some voters may not even see the questions at the bottom of the ballot, never mind make informed decisions on them.

Question 1 asks voters to adopt an income tax ban, while Question 2 gives the Legislature authority to regulate the courts. Question 3 asks if a convention should be held to amend the state constitution.

Although a heavy turnout is predicted for Election Day, don't expect many voters to be weighing in on these questions, except for maybe the income tax ban, the analysts said.

"There is so much attention paid to the top races, it is very difficult to get voters interested in what's going on at the bottom of the ballot," said University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala. "I would say passage of both (amendments) is difficult."

Adopting a constitutional amendment requires approval from two-thirds of voters, making it even more difficult to enact these proposals, he said.

Fellow political science professors and analysts Andrew Smith and Dean Spiliotes agree that few voters are aware — or even care — about the three questions. Many who are knowledgeable about the questions just don't feel amending the state Constitution is the right thing to do, they said.

That includes people who oppose an income tax, they said.

"The juice isn't there for this down the ballot," Spiliotes said.

Smith, head of the UNH Survey Center, said while many voters may have opinions on the income tax question, the same can't be said for the other two proposals.

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