New Hampshire’s status as a swing state has had several negative consequences for its residents:
- Its politics have been nationalized, and so the national political mood determines the partisan composition of the winning state legislative candidates.
- Its residents have to put up with avalanches of political advertising and campaigning by national candidates.
- There are controversies over voter eligibility. Some Republicans like to tell dark tales of voters being “bussed in” from Massachusetts to cast presidential votes, taking advantage of same-day registration. I don’t buy these claims — extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence — but there has indeed been a serious controversy over whether college students from other states ought to be able to vote in N.H. The only serious argument I can see against their being allowed to vote in N.H. is that they are unfamiliar with the needs and problems of the state and their town and tend therefore to cast less informed votes in N.H. than they could in their home state (absentee). That makes sense to me. When I was a college student, I voted absentee in Houston because I knew the issues, not Virginia where I was going to school. But the courts have said that college students must be allowed to vote in N.H. if they want to. Most of them do want to, because New Hampshire is a swing state.
- The third-party vote always gets squeezed because of tactical voting.
These problems go away if New Hampshire passes a law requiring New Hampshire’s electoral votes to go to the national popular vote winner. “But New Hampshire would be ignored by the presidential candidates!” Yes — good. I can’t imagine that New Hampshire has meaningfully benefited from presidential candidates’ attention. There’s not a single program or project that I can think of that New Hampshire benefits from because of a presidential promise made to the state’s voters during a general election. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary already gives it plenty of influence in the presidential selection process, and I don’t suggest giving that up.
The college-student problem, if it is one, goes away if New Hampshire is not a swing state. College students will vote wherever they feel they have a greater stake and better information, which is exactly as it should be. The avalanche of advertising stops, allowing voters to think harder about state and local issues and candidates. People will be more willing to vote sincerely in the presidential election, rather than for the lesser of two evils.
So why not, New Hampshire? You can take yourself off the table as an electoral college prize and regain some sanity and democratic autonomy for your state.