In a setback for voting rights, the newly-elected Democratic majorities in New Hampshire’s state Senate and state House failed to oust longtime Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner from office, who won another term over mainstream Democrat Colin Van Ostern with the support of Republicans and a minority of Democrats in a second round of balloting. The final ballot was 209 for Gardner and 205 for Van Ostern.
In office since 1976, Gardner’s previous record of nonpartisanship had veered off course in recent years. Gardner eagerly served on Donald Trump’s bogus voter fraud commission and has backed multiple voter suppression laws targeting college students that Republican legislators passed after they took control of state government following the 2016 elections.
New Hampshire Democrats now have a 14-10 edge in the Senate and 234 out of 400 seats in the House—the second-largest majority they’ve ever held since the foundation of the Republican Party in the 1850s. However, Gardner was able to secure enough support from dissident Democrats and the Republican minority to overcome the opposition of the majority of Democratic legislators.
This setback is particularly disappointing because Van Ostern is a strong advocate for policies to make voting easier and more accessible in an effort to boost turnout. He supports automatic voter registration, a bipartisan independent redistricting commission, a ban on corporate donations to state campaigns, and rolling back Republicans’ suppression of student voters. By contrast, Gardner fought to implement a GOP-backed anti student voter law even in defiance of a court order this fall, and his continued role as secretary of state will deprive New Hampshire voters of the firm advocacy they deserve to protect their right to vote.
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