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New Hampshire high court rules ballot order law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The New Hampshire Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday struck down as unconstitutional [opinion text, PDF] a state voting law that lists the election candidate of the winning party in the preceding state general election first on the ballot. The New Hampshire voting statute [RSA656:5 text] provides: "[t]he first column [of the ballot] shall contain the names of the candidates of the party which received the largest number of votes at the last preceding state general election." During oral arguments, the New Hampshire Secretary of State testified that Democratic candidates had not been first on the ballot since 1964, when the Democratic slate led by Lyndon Johnson gained the majority of state votes.

In the opinion, Justice Galway applied strict scrutiny to the statute, because the right to vote and the corresponding right to be elected, which is expressly provided by Article 1, Section II of the New Hampshire state constitution [text], are fundamental rights under New Hampshire state law. Galway concluded that the statute is unconstitutional, because the requirement that the party receiving the most votes in the prior election "enjoy" first place on the ballot "is [not] necessary to achieve a manageable ballot." AP has more.

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