To The Daily Sun,
The mayor and City Council's response to the mistake made in the Sept. 10, 2013, Laconia Primary Election results for Laconia Ward 5 City Council seat is to take away the voters of Laconia's constitutional rights by limiting a write-in candidate's access to having their name placed on the ballot.
In September 2013, Laconia City Manager Scott Myers asked Laconia City Clerk Mary Reynolds, "to gather information relative to municipal primary elections that are held in September of each odd numbered year." (City Council Meeting 2/24/2014.) At the May 12, 2014, City Council Meeting, by request of Mayor Ed Engler, "there has been a provision added to require a minimum of 35 votes by a write-in candidate to be declared a primary or election winner." Councilor Bownes correctly asked, "if there is a population correlation to the number of write-in votes you would need to receive." City Clerk Reynolds correctly replied that, "this is the number for state election" but then incorrectly said, "there is no correlation to the population." The 35 write-in votes has to do with RSA 659 - Election Procedure Canvass and Declaration: STATE Primary Election 659:88 Write-in Votes and Nomination. I. (a) "A person whose name was not printed on the official state Primary Election ballot of a political party shall not be entitled to the nomination of that party for any office unless the person received at least 35 write-in votes." RSA 659 has to do with State Partisan Elections not Laconia's City Non-Partisan Elections.
A State Primary Election has thousands of voters versus a Ward Primary Election which could have 50 voters or less.
At the Aug. 11, 2014, public hearing on the proposed charter amendments, Thomas Tardif and myself asked about the New Hampshire constitutionality of the proposed amendment having to do with the 35 write-in requirement before someone could have their name placed on the ballot. Questioning whether someone who received 34 write-votes in the primary and won the Primary Election, would that person's name be placed on the city's ballot. Or, if someone won the Laconia City Election, Mayor, City Councilor, School Board, Police Commissioner or Ward Clerk, ect. with 34 write-in votes, would that person be declared the winner? Mayor Ed Engler quickly answered "no."
The Constitution of New Hampshire Article 11 Elections and Elective Franchises."Every inhabitant of the state, having the proper qualifications, has equal rights to be elected into office." Chapter 44 Cities and Wards Local Elections Section 44:14 Procedure. "In all elections of City and Ward Officers the person having the highest number of votes for any office shall be elected." This Charter Amendment is in conflict with the NH Constitution and RSA Chapter 44.
Chapter 49-B:1 Home Rule-Municipal Charters, "Accordingly, this chapter shall be strictly interpreted to allow towns and cities to adopt, amend, or revise a municipal charter relative to their form of government so long as the resulting Charter is neither in conflict with nor inconsistent with the general laws or the Constitution this State." This is based on the N.H. Constitution Article 39 Changes in Towns and City Charters, Referendums Required.
"The legislature may by general law authorize cities and towns to adopt or amend their charters or forms of government in any way which is not in conflict with General Law." This Charter Amendment is in Conflict with the N.H. Constitution and the General Laws of the State of New Hampshire.
The City of Laconia's Charter does not provide for an alternative method for becoming a candidate which is required. CHAPTER 49-C Local Option — City Charters Elections Section 49-C:6 Preparation of Ballots, "The Charter Shall specify a filing period, the filing fee to be paid for each office, and, as an alternative method of becoming a candidate on the ballot, the number of qualified voters which may be subscribed to nominating petition in such form as the charter may set out."
In The Laconia Daily Sun 8/13/2014, "City Clerk Mary Reynolds, who initiated the process to restructure the primary election, said that the proposed Charter Amendment has been reviewed not only by the city attorney but also by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and the Attorney General, who suggested 35 votes as the minimum. Moreover, she said that Manchester, Nashua and Concord all require write-in candidates to poll a minimum of 35 votes." I've reviewed the City Charters of those three cities and cannot find any 35 vote minimum or any minimum write-in requirement in their City Charters.
Why would the Mayor and City Council want to limit access to the ballot? Which will only lower voter turnout?