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State ballot commission declines to disqualify pro-secession lawmakers from re-election

Karen Steele of Atkinson addresses the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission, Aug. 24, 2022.
Josh Rogers / NHPR
Karen Steele of Atkinson, left, addresses the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission, Aug. 24, 2022.

The state's ballot law commission has rejected an effort to disqualify 14 members of the New Hampshire House from seeking re-election because they backed a bill calling for New Hampshire's secession from the union.

Karen Steele, who lives in Atkinson, filed the request, alleging that lawmakers who did not oppose a bill that sought to put the question of New Hampshire's secession on the ballot --- a bill overwhelmingly rejected by the House -- should not be allowed to run for office.

Speaking before the Ballot Law Commission Wednesday, Steele cited the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that people who have sworn an oath to the Constitution -- as state lawmakers do -- are disqualified from holding office if they engage in insurrection or rebellion.

"These secessionists are not eligible to hold office," Steele said.

Most lawmakers targeted in the complaint skipped the hearing. But Rep. Matthew Santonastaso of Rindge testified that the complaint missed the mark.

"I don't believe this complain has any merit,” he said. “I don't believe this is the place for this."

Ballot law commissioners agreed, unanimously. Several noted their purview is to interpret state law, not the federal constitution.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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