By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
Amid the many recounts this week, the Secretary of State’s Office managed to finalize the information on voter checklists throughout the state for the 2022 election.
The number of registered voters is considerably smaller than it was after the 2020 general election because checklists were purged — as they are required to do at least once every 10 years — before this election.
After the Nov. 8 election, the state had 925,401 registered voters, compared to the 1,119,232 after the 2020 general election.
After the 2020 election, as has been the case for a number of years, Democrats outnumber Republicans, but both are outnumbered by independent or more correctly undeclared voters.
After the last presidential election, Democrats numbered 347,828, Republicans 333,165, and undeclared voters were 438,239.
After the recent general election, there were 289,590 registered Democrats, 284,705 Republicans and 351,106 undeclared voters.
While the number of registered voters dropped off this election, so did the number of voters registering at the polls.
In the 2020 general election, 75,611 people registered at the polls, while 48,618 registered at their polling place this year.
The breakdown of the registration for voting day registration was 12,616 registering as Democrats, 10,678 as Republicans and 25,324 as undeclared, which is similar to the overall breakdown between the parties.
The largest number of election-day registrations was as expected in the state’s largest county, Hillsborough, at 24,527, followed by Rockingham at 15,499.
They were followed by Strafford at 8,885 and Grafton with 8,354.
The smallest numbers of election-day registrations were in two of the state’s smallest counties, Coos, at 1,510 and Sullivan at 1,942.
By counties, the highest percentage of election day registration to the overall number of voters is where you would expect it to be, Strafford County at 7.5 percent and in Grafton County at 7.1 percent. Strafford is home to the University of New Hampshire, and Grafton hosts both Dartmouth College and Plymouth State University.
In Cheshire County, which hosts Keene State College, the percentage of election-day registration was 5.4 percent, lower than Merrimack County at 5.7 percent and just above Hillsborough County at 5.2 percent.
The lowest percentage of election day registration compared to the overall number of voters was Carroll County at 3.5 percent, followed by Rockingham and Coos counties at 4.3 percent and Belknap at 4.5 percent.
The overall average of election-day registered voters to the number of registered voters is 5.25 percent, but 7.7 percent of the votes cast in the record-setting general election.
While some — particularly Republicans — express concern about election-day registration, the alternative is to register voters when they register a motor vehicle and that is even less popular.
But after Senate Bill 418 passed and was signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu after he at first expressed concerns, election-day registration and voting will change somewhat.
The bill created a provisional ballot system, which will go into effect for the next round of elections in 2024.
The new law requires someone without an acceptable ID or other required information to prove residence, to provide that information to their town or city clerk within seven days or their vote will not be counted.
Currently voters may sign an affidavit attesting to their residence in their town or city but their ballot is accepted and counted.
The new law will likely be challenged in court before the next election cycle because it complicates the state’s requirement for sending absentee ballots to service members overseas.
Election-day registration is used by both parties to their advantage, as it can flood a voting district at the end of the day with one party’s registration without the other party having an opportunity to respond.
For example, look at District 8 in Sullivan County which had a hotly contested race in a floaterial district that includes most of the county including the town of Croydon, which garnered attention when it cut its school district budget in half at a sparsely attended annual meeting this spring.
Town residents pushed back and eventually restored the money and one of the people involved in that effort, Hope Damon, ran for one of the two district 8 seats.
She received the most votes for one of the two seats, but there were some interesting election-day registrations in some of the towns like Croydon which had nine Republicans registered, but only one Democrat, Goshen had a 16-2 split favoring Republicans and in Lempster the Republican split was 9-2.
Sunapee had 100 people registering on election day with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 20 to 15 and 65 independents, although Damon won the vote in that town.
Sullivan County had several communities inundated with last minute voters two years ago, most all registering as Republicans particularly with a hotly contested Senate District 8 race to be decided.
In this month’s election, a look at District 12 of the state Senate shows what kind of effect election-day registration can have.
The district remains the same as it was drawn 10 years ago when the Cheshire County town of Rindge was added. Rindge is a very Republican community and along with New Ipswich, together they produce enough Republican votes to offset the Democratic votes from three wards in Nashua.
Until that change, the seat was reliably held by Democrats from Nashua for quite some time.
In that district, there were 1,911 election-day registrations, breaking down as 436 Republicans, 449 Democrats and 1,026 independents for a total of 1,911. That amounts to 4.6 percent of the registered voters and about 7 percent of the votes cast in the district.
The difference between the winning and losing candidates in this district was 688 votes, or about one-third of the election day registration in the district.
Other senate districts have similar numbers.
The high percentage of election-day registrations makes predicting election outcomes in New Hampshire difficult.
If you listened to the pollsters toward the end of the election season, you would have thought a “red wave” was about to swamp the state and the nation, but instead it was more like a blue wave with younger voters turning out to the polls in numbers you seldom see.
And that is why Republicans have worked so hard to gerrymander the political boundaries, both here and in many other states around the country as well as suppress voter turnout.
The demographics are not in their favor going forward with the youth vote energized and ready to bring change.
But the overall numbers tell the story, Democrats outnumber Republicans but both are outnumbered by the state’s undeclared voters and they are the ones that sway elections one way or the other in any given election.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.