Amidst a very chilly morning, Barack Obama together with Bill Clinton came to New Hampshire to rally the troops in a last minute political stump speech before a very cold, but fired up crowd of fourteen thousand people ahead of Tuesday’s election in the United States. Whether it is Manchester, or the state Capital of Concord, where Obama spoke right behind the State House, New Hampshire’s spaces are wide, open, and lined with federal style architecture disrupted only by the Interstate highways that course through America. The state seems to have an atmosphere that has zero cosmopolitan feel, and yet, that is exactly what New Hampshire’s charm is. Simply put, the Granite State has a small town vibe.
It would seem strange that, for such a small state, with a voting population in the area of only 680,000 voters— could mean four more years for Barack Obama, or not. Don’t mistake New Hampshire’s folksy charm nor the seemingly laid back life for anything but, a serious approach to politics. In fact, politics in New Hampshire is a constant. Even dog catchers are voted into office. There is always someone who is in campaign mode. They also start their kids on the path to politics by bringing them to the State House at a relatively young age, and indoctrinating them in the legislative process.
Voting Proceedures and Laws
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan talked extensively about voting procedures, and laws in New Hampshire.
The voting ballot is as tall as a newspaper, and is optically scanned. Even the arrangement on who gets to be on what column is debated.
One remarkable characteristic for voters in New Hampshire is the ability to register on Election Day itself. You can walk in a polling precinct, present your credentials. Your name will be added to the list, and will be verified after the election.
Voter ID Laws
That said, New Hampshire is one of many states now requiring identification. Voter ID laws, many opposed to it have argued that it makes it harder for people to vote. Not everyone has a driver’s license or some other valid identification. The Voter ID law was passed to prevent voter fraud, of which there is no known pandemic in the United States.
Albert Scherr, Professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and a Board Member of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union on the other hand talked about challenges voters face.
One of the requirements for voting in New Hampshire is that you have to be domicile in the State. With the new voter ID law, Republicans have challenged students who are in New Hampshire to get a degree, and have refused them the ability to vote. The Republicans argued that said students would need to have a driver’s license from the State of New Hampshire.
Professor Scherr recounted how they opposed this move by the Republicans, as well as how they intend to spread news and information about voting and elections. The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union commissioned an app. According to Professor Scherr, four (4) days before the election, this app has already been downloaded Seventy-two thousand (72,000) times. The iPhone app explains the right in the voting process. It also helps regulate irregularities as they are happening by connecting the voter to people who can help upload voter’s rights such as the Attorney General.
Beyond the fact that New Hampshire, and Iowa play huge roles in the presidential primaries, ultimately, the battle for the White House could be decided by New Hampshire’s four electoral votes, or at the very least, instrumental in carrying a candidate close to the top.
Why New Hampshire leans Democrats
Professor Dante Scala, an associate professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire talked how in the last decade, the Granite State slowly moved from being a Republican demographic, to this Democratic one. Republicans were older, and they either moved south to a different state, or died away. Scala— at least at the time we talked with him pointed out that the race was “too close to call”. “The math is hard,” wrote Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman. For Nate Silver, it means that at this point, “for Romney to win, state polls must be statistically biased“.
The Role of Money
Democratic Party Fundraiser, Activist Chief Executive Officer of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirshberg talked about how important this election is. Hirshberg is also a known supporter of environmental issues. He is also the first stop for anyone wishing to run for public office in New Hampshire, and for the Presidency of the United States. Stonyfield, he argued was built on the premise that establishing a company with the idea of sustainability works. Stonyfield is a producer of organic yogurt.
Hirshberg talked about the importance of the election. Primarily, he talked about the increasing role of Money in United States politics especially in light of a recent Supreme Court decision called “Citizen’s United”. It was a split decision: 5 to 4. In a nutshell, Citizen’s United means that Corporations are People, and so have the right to give monies to any campaign they choose. Hence, the idea behind, “SuperPac”. The next President of the United States will have the opportunity to appoint Supreme Court Justices enough to turn around the Court’s decision on Citizen United.
This election, Hirshberg said, both campaigns would have spent, a projected 2 billion dollars in total (1 billion each). Hirshberg noted that could help a lot of people in any part of the world, and even in the United States. This has to stop he said. Money is taking away the people’s right to vote. What is happening, he said is this. If people aren’t being heard. Instead, the corporations give money to swamp people with campaigning.
The political calculus of course is deeply lined with statistics, and modeling. Everything is calculated to the extent that it can, and every edge each camp could carry is welcome in a polarized campaign.
Take the Grandmothers for Obama— a group of elderly women who have organized themselves in support of the President of the United State’s desire for a second term. Their list is an impressive collection of independents and undecideds. The Democratic National Convention provided the list to the Grandmothers and each grandmother personalizes their appeal, with a conversation dating back from early in the campaign, and culminates with a reminder to vote.
Every vote is crucial
New Hampshire typically votes at around 40 percent.
And that reminder to vote is crucial. So crucial that both President Obama and Bill Clinton in their speeches couldn’t stress enough that their supporters call, convince and help ensure that people do turn out to vote. A higher turnout will do the Democrats some good. A lower turnout is to the advantage of Republicans.
“If you’re willing to work with me,” President Barack Obama began. “If you’re willing to knock some doors for me. If you’re willing to make some phone calls for me, we’ll win New Hampshire! We’ll win this election! We’ll finish what we’ve started. We’ll renew those bonds that do not break! And reaffirm the spirit that makes the United States of America, the Greatest Nation on Earth. Let’s go get it, New Hampshire! Thank you! God bless you. God Bless the United States of America.” Amidst the cheers and energized faces, with almost a gunshot-like sound, Barack Obama loudly banged on the side of the podium with the seal of the Office of United States, ending his speech before fired up Democrats heading into voting day.
Editor’s Note: Originally Published by The Philippine Online Chronicles, and Blog Watch Citizen Media. The 2012 U.S. Election reporting tour, courtesy of Blog Watch, and The U.S. Embassy-Manila.
Image credit: Cocoy Dayao, Licensed under Creative Commons.