Elections in the U.S. state of New Hampshire are held at national, state and local (county and municipal) level. The state holds the first presidential primary in the national cycle. Elections for a range of state positions coincide with biennial elections for the House of Representatives.
The state of New Hampshire holds its state general elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (better known as Election Day) in even-numbered years. As a result of this, general elections in New Hampshire systematically coincide with the biennial elections for the United States House of Representatives.
During general elections in New Hampshire, elections are held for the positions of Governor, Executive Councilor, state Senator, state Representative, Sheriff, County Attorney, County Treasurer, Register of Deeds, and Register of Probate. Officials elected to all nine of these offices are elected for a term of two years.
Election of County Commissioners also occurs during the state's general elections, but rules for these elections vary by county. In Strafford County, for example, three County Commissioners are elected to two-year terms at every general election. In Carroll County, by contrast, three County Commissioners are elected to rotating four-year terms.
New Hampshire's Governor is elected at large; Executive Councilors, state Senators, and state Representatives are elected by district; Sheriff, County Attorney, County Treasurer, Register of Deeds, and Register of Probate are elected by county; and County Commissioners are elected, again, by rules that vary from county to county.
New Hampshire currently has 400 seats in its House of Representatives, 24 seats in its Senate, and five seats on its Executive Council.
New Hampshire is well known in national politics for holding the first primary in the quadrennial U.S. presidential election cycle. This so-called New Hampshire primary is actually mandated by state law. New Hampshire RSA 653:9 requires that the state's presidential primary elections be scheduled on the earlier of:
- the second Tuesday in March, or
- no less than seven (7) days prior to the holding of a "similar election" in any other state
New Hampshire voters selected Republicans for office during the 19th and 20th centuries until 1992. Since then, voters have chosen Democrats for U.S. President all but once, while voting Democratic for most state offices in 2006 and 2008 and Republican for most state offices in 2010. On selected issues, political debate in New Hampshire centers on personal liberty.
Historically, New Hampshire was a staunchly conservative state and regularly voted Republican. Some sources trace the founding of the Republican Party to the town of Exeter in 1853. Prior to 1992, New Hampshire had only strayed from the Republican Party for three presidential candidates—Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. The state voted for Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan twice by overwhelming majorities.
Beginning in 1992, New Hampshire became a swing state in both national and local elections. The state supported Democrats Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. It was the only U.S. state to support George W. Bush in the 2000 election and go Democratic in the 2004 election. The state has elected three Democrats to the Governorship during this period.
The voters selected Democrats in New Hampshire as they did nationally in 2006 and 2008. In 2006, Democrats won both congressional seats (electing Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st district and Paul Hodes in the 2nd district), re-elected Governor John Lynch, and gained a majority on the Executive Council and in both houses of the legislature for the first time since 1911. Democrats had not held both the legislature and the governorship since 1874. Neither U.S. Senate seat was up for a vote in 2006. In 2008, Democrats retained their majorities, governorship, and congressional seats; and former governor Jeanne Shaheen defeated incumbent Republican John E. Sununu for the U.S. Senate in a rematch of the 2002 contest.
The 2008 elections resulted in women holding 13 of the 24 seats in the New Hampshire Senate, a first for any legislative body in the United States. At the end of the 2008 election cycle, voters registered Democratic outnumbered those registered Republican.
It had been thought that Democrats moving in from Massachusetts were responsible for the shift. A 2006 University of New Hampshire survey found that those immigrants were mostly Republican. Their moving had helped the border towns to remain Republican, while other areas had become increasingly Democratic. The study indicated that immigrants from states other than Massachusetts tended to lean Democratic.
In the 2010 midterm elections, New Hampshire voters replaced both of its Democratic House of Representatives incumbents with Republican challengers. The Democrats regained both seats at the 2012 elections. As of 2016 Republicans control the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature, giving Republicans a trifecta.