Voter Guide One-Sided
By Larry Vogelman
The polling place is sacrosanct and should be a safe zone -- once you cross within a certain distance, no signs, no political buttons, no literature left behind in voting booths. There is an exception this year.
This year, voters will find stacks of papers in their polling places -- prepared, paid for and distributed at public expense – that masquerade as "Voter's Guides" but in reality are just another form of one-sided electioneering.
These "Voter's Guides" allow the legislative sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments appearing on the ballot to provide their own "explanations" of what the ballot questions say, and what effect these measures would have if passed. The "Guide" for Question 2 is especially misleading.
Question 2 calls for amending the NH Constitution to give the Legislature the final say over the Judicial Branch in establishing rules for the courts. A number of organizations - The NH Bar Association, the League of Women Voters, numerous newspapers -- as well as former Governor Steve Merrill, former House Speaker Douglas Scamman, UNH School of Law Dean John Broderick, and current Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, among others --think this is a radical change, and a bad idea. These organizations and individuals, joined by many others, both Republicans and Democrats, have spoken out about the perils of this amendment.
The "Voter's Guide" written by the legislative sponsors offers no hint of the controversy, and instead suggests that the amendment to Part 2, Article 73-a merely "clarifies," rather than changes, the relationship between the independent branches of government. "Guides" with this one-sided argument have been delivered to local election officials and may be distributed to voters at the polls.
Opponents of the amendment have written letters and essays, and spoken to broadcast media outlets; they have placed lawn signs and advertisements. But the opponents of this meddlesome amendment are at a disadvantage because supporters of Question 2 have the built-in advantage of the misleading literature that voters will find in the polling place. Voters should not be misled, especially within the "safe zone" of the polling place.
This is not a partisan issue – it is about preserving the checks and balances that are the foundation of our government.
Twice before, voters have been presented with similar attempts to give the legislature dominance over the courts, and both times the voters have rejected the amendment. We hope they will do so again.
Keep politics out of the courts – Vote "NO" on Question 2.
Larry Vogelman is president of the NH Bar Association for the 2012-13 year. A civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, he practices with the Nixon, Vogelman, Barry, Slawsky and Simoneau in Manchester.