By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
Amid the many recounts this week, the office of the secretary of state managed to finalize information on statewide voter checklists for the 2022 election.
The number of registered voters is considerably smaller than after the 2020 general election because the checklists have been cleaned up before this election – as they have to do at least every 10 years.
After the November 8 election, the state had 925,401 registered voters, compared to 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 accurately undeclared, voters.
After the last presidential election there were 347,828 Democrats, 333,165 Republicans and 438,239 black voters.
After the most recent general election, there were 289,590 registered Democrats, 284,705 Republicans, and 351,106 black voters.
As the number of registered voters in this election fell, so did the number of voters who registered at the ballot box.
In the 2020 general election, 75,611 people registered at the ballot box, while this year 48,618 registered at their polling station.
The breakdown of registration for Election Day registration was 12,616 registrations as Democrats, 10,678 as Republicans, and 25,324 as undeclared, which is similar to the overall distribution between parties.
As expected, the largest borough in the state, Hillsborough, had the highest election day registrations at 24,527, followed by Rockingham at 15,499.
They were followed by Strafford with 8,885 and Grafton with 8,354.
The lowest number of Election Day registrations were in two of the smallest counties in the state, Coos with 1,510 and Sullivan with 1,942.
By county, the highest percentage of Election Day registration of the total voter count is where you’d expect it to be in Strafford County at 7.5 percent and Grafton County at 7.1 percent. Strafford is home to the University of New Hampshire, and Grafton is home to both Dartmouth College and Plymouth State University.
In Cheshire County, which houses Keene State College, the Election Day registration percentage was 5.4 percent, lower than Merrimack County’s 5.7 percent and just above Hillsborough County’s 5.2 percent.
The lowest percentage of Election Day registration compared to the total 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 registered voters on election day to the number of registered voters is 5.25 percent, but 7.7 percent of the votes cast in the record election.
While some — particularly Republicans — express concerns about registration on Election Day, the alternative is to register voters when they register a motor vehicle, and that’s even less popular.
But after Senate Bill 418 is passed and signed by Gov. Chris Sununu after initially raising concerns, Election Day registration and voting will change somewhat.
The bill created an interim voting system that will come into effect for the next round of elections in 2024.
The new law requires someone without acceptable identification or other information required to prove residency to submit that information to their town or city clerk within seven days or their vote will not be counted.
Currently, voters can sign an affidavit certifying residency in their city, but their vote will be accepted and counted.
The new law is likely to be challenged in court before the next election cycle because it makes it harder for the state to send mail-in ballots to military members abroad.
Registration on Election Day is used to their advantage by both parties because, at the end of the day, it can flood an electoral district with one party’s registration without giving the other party a chance to respond.
Take District 8 in Sullivan County, for example, which had a hotly contested race in a floating district encompassing most of the county, including the city of Croydon, that attracted attention when they reviewed the school district’s budget at a sparsely attended annual meeting halved this spring.
The townspeople pushed back and eventually restored the money, and one of the people involved in that effort, Hope Damon, ran for one of the two seats in District 8.
She received the most votes for one of the two seats, but there were some interesting Election Day registrations in some towns like Croydon, which had nine Republican registrations but only one Democrat, Goshen, had a 16-2 split in favor of Republicans and in Lempster, the Republican split, was 9-2.
In Sunapee, 100 people had registered by Election Day, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 20 to 15 and Independents 65, although Damon won the vote in that city.
Sullivan County two years ago had several communities swamped with last-minute voters, most 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 the effect registration can have on election day.
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, they combine to produce enough Republican votes to balance the Democratic votes from three counties in Nashua.
Prior to this change, the seat had been reliably held by Nashua Democrats for a long time.
That county had 1,911 registrations as of Election Day, splitting into 436 Republicans, 449 Democrats, and 1,026 Independents for a total of 1,911. That is 4.6 percent of the registered voters and around 7 percent of the votes cast in the district.
The difference between the winning and losing candidates in that district was 688 votes, or about one-third of the district’s Election Day registration.
Other Senate districts have similar numbers.
The high percentage of registrations on Election Day makes it difficult to predict election results in New Hampshire.
If you were listening to pollsters near the end of election season, you would have thought a “red wave” would sweep across the state and nation, but instead it was more of a blue wave, with younger voters going to the polls in numbers that one rarely sees.
And that’s why Republicans have worked so hard to push political boundaries, both here and in many other states across the country, and to stifle voter turnout.
Demographics are not in their favor as the youth vote is energetic and poised to bring about change.
But the overall numbers tell the tale, the Democrats outnumber the Republicans, but both outnumber the state’s black voters, and they are the ones influencing the polls in every election in one way or another.
Garry Rayno can be reached at [email protected]
Veteran journalist Garry Rayno’s Distant Dome explores a broader perspective on the State House and state events for InDepthNH.org. During his three-decade career, Rayno reported on the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. Throughout his career, his reporting has spanned the news spectrum from local planning, school and election boards to national issues such as electrical industry deregulation and presidential primary elections. Rayno lives in New London with his wife Carolyn.