On April 17, the New Hampshire Senate defeated HB 1322 by a vote of 13-11. All members of the State Senate voted. Every Republican voted “no”, and every Democrat voted “yes.” The bill would have eased the definition of a “political party”, from a group that had polled 4% for either Governor or U.S. Senator at the last election, to 3%.
In addition, on April 17, the legislature passed HB 1542, which had been introduced at the request of Secretary of State Bill Gardner. It makes it illegal for a group to circulate a petition to give it the ability to nominate multiple candidates (in a convention). This petition has existed since 1996, and it has only been used twice, by the Libertarian Party in 2000 and again in 2012. This petition requires signatures of 3% of the last gubernatorial vote. When the Libertarian Party did this petition for the 2000 election, it started in April 1999 and did not finish it until the August 2000 deadline. For 2012, the Libertarian Party started the petition in August 2011 and did not finish it until the deadline in August 2012. Experience therefore shows that eliminating half the time to circulate the petition is substantially harmful.
Federal courts in Rhode Island and Arkansas have ruled that it is unconstitutional to tell a group that it cannot circulate a petition for party status during an odd year.
Since this type of petition has existed, the legislature has constantly made it less and less useful. When it was used for the first time in 2000, the Libertarian Party used its flexibility to nominate candidates by nominating a sitting House member who had been defeated in the primary for State Senate. That candidate, Steve Vaillancourt, who did have libertarian principles even though he had been elected to the House as a Democrat, was then re-elected to his House seat as the Libertarian nominee. Afterwards, the law was changed so that parties that use this type of petition cannot nominate anyone who didn’t file a declaration of candidacy in June. Thanks to Darryl Perry for this news.