Every election year the nonpartisan, nonprofit Citizens Count surveys and profiles the roughly 900 candidates for state and federal office in New Hampshire, from state representative through U.S. senator. When Citizens Count staff choose which issues to ask about on our candidate surveys – and how to phrase the questions – we know we are sending a message about the most important issues facing New Hampshire. Our survey drafting process therefore includes input from various policy advocates, stakeholders, and the general public. According to the 110 individuals who responded to Citizens Count’s request for input, here are the top five issues Granite Staters want candidates to address in 2022.
1. State gun laws
We started our input gathering process weeks before the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. Even so, respondents were most interested in learning where New Hampshire candidates stand on gun laws. New Hampshire legislators consider loosening or tightening gun laws almost every year. In May the Legislature passed a bill to block state or local enforcement of any federal laws or actions aimed at limiting firearms, HB 1178. That bill is headed to Gov. Sununu for his signature or veto. Next year Democrats will probably reintroduce a bill to expand background checks to some private firearm sales.
2. Access to abortion before 24 weeks
It is unsurprising that abortion is at the forefront of Granite Staters’ minds following the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
Last year Gov. Sununu signed a ban on abortion after 24 weeks gestation in New Hampshire as part of the state budget.
This year some Democrats sponsored legislation to block any further abortion restrictions, while some Republicans sponsored a bill to ban abortions as early as six weeks. Most of that legislation failed. The Legislature did pass a bill adding some exceptions to the ban on abortion after 24 weeks.
3. “Education Freedom Account” program
New Hampshire’s “Education Freedom Account” (EFA) program, also passed as part of last year’s state budget, allows parents to access some state school funding and spend it on private and/or home schooling expenses. Supporters argue the EFA program empowers students to access the best education for their needs. Opponents argue it drains critical funding from public schools.
There were several bills introduced this year to audit, restrict, or repeal the EFA program. The vast majority of these bills failed, but the debate is ongoing. The financial impact of the EFA program may be of particular interest to budget writers next year.
4. Mail-in voting
In 2020 New Hampshire allowed no-excuse absentee ballots for all voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was a one-time policy change; New Hampshire does not allow mail-in voting.
Some legislators want to change that. They argue that no-excuse absentee voting increases voter participation. Opponents argue that New Hampshire already has high voter turnout compared to other states, and mail-in voting would decrease public trust in election security.
Both the current and former New Hampshire Secretaries of State avow that New Hampshire elections are secure, but former president Donald Trump continues to tell his followers that election fraud is a problem in New Hampshire.
5. Level of per-pupil public school funding from the state
There have been many school-related debates over the past two years, from mask policies, to remote learning, to critical race theory, to teacher retention, to school board processes… the list goes on and on. Many of the 110 individuals who responded to Citizens Count acknowledged those issues, but they ranked the level of per-pupil public school funding from the state as one of the most important school-related concerns. Over half of those who responded identified the issue as “extremely important to ask.”
There is an ongoing lawsuit over how the state funds public schools. The school funding formula may also come up in next year’s state budget debate.
A note about our process
It is important to note that the responses discussed here are not the result of a scientific poll. Citizens Count did not seek a randomized sample of Granite Staters, nor did we collect demographic information to determine if the people who responded are representative of the state overall. We posted an open call on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and our newsletter for members of the public to share their opinion on the top issues facing New Hampshire this election year. Think of these results like “man on the street” interviews – a snapshot of how some locals are thinking about the election.
If you want more detail on our survey process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to know where your candidates stand on these issues – or are yourself a candidate, looking to fill out the Citizens Count survey – stay tuned. Citizens Count will send a survey to every candidate and launch their profiles on our website this July.