History of NH Presidential Primary
NH Presidential Primary Timeline
(For additional references, please see Why? New Hampshire: The First-in-the-nation Primary State (2000) by Hugh Gregg and Bill Gardner)
1913 NH legislature passed a law introduced by Rep. Stephen Bullock (D), a farmer from Richmond, NH, that provided for the election of delegates to the National Conventions by direct vote of the people. The first primary date was set for the third Tuesday of May in 1916.
1915 NH legislature amended the 1913 law to change the date from the third Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March, or Town Meeting Day. This allowed the towns to save money by combining the two voting days and only opening the town halls once.
1916 New Hampshire holds its first primary on the first Tuesday of March. Indiana held its primary one week earlier, and Minnesota held its primary on the same day as New Hampshire’s primary.
1920 New Hampshire’s primary became first-in-the-nation. Minnesota returned to a caucus, and Indiana moved its primary date to May.
1944 Eighteen percent of New Hampshire’s registered voters turned out to vote in the primary.
1948 Twenty-seven percent of New Hampshire’s registered voters turned out to vote in the primary.
1949 NH legislature amended the presidential primary law through efforts by Speaker of the House Richard Upton, (R-Concord). The amended legislation allowed the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates on the ballot, thereby permitting the voter to register a direct preference for the choice of the president and vice president. The legislation also permitted the name of a candidate for president or vice president to be placed on the ballot if the proper number of signatures of registered voters (50 from each of the two congressional districts) were submitted to the secretary of state.
1952 Forty-three percent of eligible NH voters turn out to vote in the NH primary. This was the first primary in which voters cast ballots directly for presidential and vice presidential candidates.
1971 The number of signatures necessary to place a candidate’s name on the ballot was increased from 50 to 500 in each of the two congressional districts. For the first time a filing fee was established, requiring candidates to pay $500 in addition to provide the requisite signatures.
1975 Through legislation introduced by Rep. Jim Splaine, (D-Portsmouth), NH Primary and Town Meeting dates were separated, allowing the NH Primary to be scheduled on “the first Tuesday in March or on the Tuesday immediately preceding the date on which any other New England state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier.”
1977 The NH House and Senate further revised the 1975 bill by removing the words “New England” so that the NH Primary would be held before any other state holding a similar election.
1983 The signature requirement is abolished and the filing fee is raised to $1,000.00. This made it easier for lesser-known candidates to enter the race.
1996 New Hampshire allows Election Day voter registration for the first time, resulting in 26,622 new voters, with 74% of registered Republicans participating. Forty-five percent of registered Democrats also participated. New Hampshire experienced a high-record voter turnout, almost twice that of any other state.
1999 New legislation gave additional flexibility to the Secretary of State to move the NH Presidential Primary date “seven days or more” ahead of any other state holding a “similar election.”
2006 Legislation regarding the filing period for the NH Primary was amended to allow the Secretary of State more flexibility: “Declarations of candidacy shall be filed between the first Monday in November and the third Friday in November, or during such other time period as the secretary of state shall announce.”