All Three N.H. Ballot Measures Fail

Nov 8, 2012

New Hampshire voters showed a reluctance to change the state constitution in Tuesday’s election, rejecting one amendment that would have banned a personal income tax and another that would have given the legislature more control over the judiciary.

With votes in from 85 percent of state precincts, both measures had fallen well short of the two-thirds voter approval needed.

Question 1 asked voters to forbid future legislatures from imposing any new taxes or fees on personal income. As of early Wednesday morning, the measure had received 274,331 votes, or just over 57 percent of the nearly 522,000 ballots counted. Lawmakers had sought the amendment to protect the New Hampshire Advantage, which they say gives the state a leg up economically on other states that tax personal incomes to fund government services.

Opponents argued that the ban on new tax revenue would tie the hands of future legislatures and force the state to rely even more on property taxes or increase other state and local taxes.

Question 2 would have given the legislature “concurrent power” to make rules governing the state’s court system. It also failed to gain the necessary support, with only 51 percent of voters approving, as of Wednesday morning.

Supporters said the amendment was needed to clarify the role of the legislature in overseeing the courts’ practices and procedures. Opponents, including the New Hampshire Bar Association, as well as two former state Supreme Court justices, said the amendment violated a fundamental principle of constitutional democracy, the separation of powers. They argued that giving the legislature greater rule-making power would allow the political branch of government to impose its will on an independent judiciary.

Similar amendments failed in 2002 and 2004.

Dan Wise, communications director at New Hampshire Bar, said lawmakers who had sought the constitutional change failed to make a convincing case.

“Sixty-six percent is an uphill battle, but apparently voters took the view that you shouldn’t change the constitution unless there’s a good reason to,” he said. “We’re very happy that it looks like most people didn’t think it was a very good idea.”

A third ballot measure, Question 3, would have created a constitutional convention to revise or amend the constitutional. Part 2, Article 100 of the New Hampshire requires the question be put to a vote every ten years.

It was defeated by a 64.1 to 35.9 margin, with 84 percent of precincts reporting.