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With the NH primary around the corner, what will voting look like at UNH?

Primary elections often see low turnout compared to their general counterparts, but New Hampshire youth posted strong numbers in last November’s midterm elections. This could be a sign of things to come in January.
Jackie Weik
Outside the Memorial Union Building, where activist groups were shuttling students to polls on Midterm election day last November.

Before New Hampshire can vote for president in November 2024, the state has to elect who it wants the candidates to be in the primary election. Despite not having a date set, predictions are actively being made about whose names will appear on the ballot next fall.

Primary elections are nowhere near as well known as the general election that happens every four years. According to the United States Election Project, only 42.4% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2020 primary. In the general election, that number jumped to 75.5%.

Dr. Andrew Smith, professor of political science and international affairs at the University of New Hampshire, has a feeling that students on campus will be voting blue this next election. 

When it comes to elections, young New Hampshire voters have relatively high voter turnout rates. According to 2022 Midterm election exit polling, 35.1% of New Hampshirites aged 18 to 29 submitted a ballot compared to 31.2% across the United States.

This is “largely because the Democratic Party has done a really, really good job of organizing turnout efforts here,” Smith said. 

During that election, the university offered shuttles to and from the polls in an effort to get more students to vote, as well as offering resources for educational purposes and for how to register. 

But Smith said students generally are the least likely to show up when it comes time to vote. He believes a lot of this has to do with a lack of civics and government education at the middle school and high school levels, acknowledging that there is only so much the university can do to encourage younger generations to vote.

“The amount of and quality of civics education in the world– and in our middle schools and high schools– yeah, it’s almost nonexistent,” he said. 

Molly Kent, a senior at UNH and the co-president of the university’s chapter of Planned Parenthood: Generation Action (PPGA), said that the group is feeling a lot of anxiety for the upcoming elections, especially since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, 2022. 

“So, you know, my hope for the upcoming election for 2024 is that people will just kind of remember that [abortion access is] really important to them,” she said. “And remember the way that they felt when Roe v Wade got overturned or when Trump got elected.” 

Students for Life, a UNH organization for anti-abortion students, did not respond to a request for a comment. 

Kent hopes to make voting in the primary more publicized and more accessible to students in an effort to increase voter turnout. 

On social issues, Smith also said that a lot of Republican candidates are going to have to focus on who their audience is when appealing to New Hampshire voters. 

“Pushing anti-gay, anti-woke things… it’s not speaking to them,” Smith said. “You talk about taxes or building development or something like that, you have a much better chance.”

The date for the New Hampshire primary election is yet to be decided, but the Democratic National Convention (DNC) is attempting to have South Carolina be the first state of the primary elections, deviating from New Hampshire for the first time since 1920. The Granite State has a lengthy history of being first in compliance with a state law that says the primary must come before any other election in the nation. According to the DNC, New Hampshire has until Oct. 14 to comply, but state lawmakers show no sign of agreeing any time soon.

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Jackie Weik, Staff Photographer

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