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NH Only Legislature that Flipped in 2020. But Why?

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According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least one chamber of the New Hampshire Legislature has flipped parties in six of the past eight elections. (sframe/Adobe Stock)
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least one chamber of the New Hampshire Legislature has flipped parties in six of the past eight elections. (sframe/Adobe Stock)
November 13, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. -- The New Hampshire Legislature is the only state congress in this year's election to flip parties, going from all Democratic to Republican control.

Many Granite State voters chose Democrats for president and for the U.S. Senate, and voted for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, known as "splitting their ticket" between parties.

Why are "split-ticket" voters numerous here, but so rare elsewhere?

Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, has a theory. Smith said it has a lot to do with how the Republican Party is changing.

"New Hampshire Republicans are pretty much like Rockefeller Republicans; small government, in the sense that we don't like taxes up here, but they're not activist Republicans," Smith explained. "Trump just didn't resonate with the New Hampshire Republican Party as much as he would have in other places of the country."

He added New Hampshire has a lot of moderate GOP voters, a less common breed in today's national Republican Party, and this moderation creates a lot of swing elections at the state level.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has even called New Hampshire "the nation's swingiest state."

Wayne Lesperance, Vice President of Academic Affairs and political science professor at New England College, pointed out New Hampshire's unique place as a first-in-the-nation primary also fosters an independent atmosphere.

"The running joke in New Hampshire is, somebody gets asked who they're voting for and they usually answer, 'I don't know. I haven't met them all three times yet,'" Lesperance observed. "That's the luxury of being in the first-in-the-nation state. The ability to make decisions based on the individuals has led to folks voting for the individuals and not for the party, I would argue."

About 40% of New Hampshire voters are registered as "undeclared," or independent. Unlike some states, the New Hampshire primaries allow undeclared voters to participate.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH