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New Hampshire: Live Free or Be Undecided
By Bridget Curley, 8th grade
Scholastic Student Reporter


Bridget Curley interviews voters at a town hall meeting for Senator John Kerry in Concord, New Hampshire, in January. Click on the picture to read more about Bridget. (Photo by Suzanne Freeman)


Monday, January 26—On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and final state needed to ratify the Constitution. To this day, New Hampshirites still wait until the last minute to decide their votes.

New Hampshire is the place where politicians come every four years to freeze in subzero temperatures, begging for votes. But they won't know where voters stand until the results are in.

For the most part, people in New Hampshire don't make up their mind about who to vote for until they are standing in the booth with pencil in hand.

"I'm going to do it [decide] at the last minute," said Mark Smith of Concord. Smith was one of about 500 people at a town hall meeting for Senator John Edwards the evening before the election. A registered independent, Smith said he was looking forward to making his decision. "I love voting," he said. "It's a real honor and privilege as a citizen to vote, so I think I'm just kind of waiting and thinking about it as long as I can to make a decision at the end."

As the first primary in the nation, New Hampshire presidential contests are like no other. Only Iowa gets the kind of exposure to the candidates as voters in New Hampshire. In both states, voters can shop around, taking the time to meet the candidates face to face. For New Hampshirites, comparison shopping never seems to get old, even after the decision has been made.

Tom Fredenburg of Concord came to hear Edwards tonight, even though he's pretty sure he's going to vote for former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

"I thought I had an obligation to listen to what he [Edwards] had to say," Fredenburg said.

New Hampshire voters know that every four years the eyes of the nation are on them, and they take the responsibility seriously.

"It's like Disneyland for politicians," Manchester Mayor Bob Baines told Scholastic News Online at another political event in the last days before the election.

New Hampshire Congressman Jeb Bradley, a Republican, said New Hampshire voters do a good job of looking over the candidates.

"We do a really good job of putting candidates through their paces and the candidates get better from it," he said. Bradley attended an event at Merrimack's restaurant in Manchester with Senator John McCain, also a Republican. The two were campaigning for the reelection of President George Bush. "As voters, we have a better opportunity than most of knowing who the candidates are because you can come to restaurants like this and talk to people, as opposed to the larger states where everything is done on TV. That's one of the big reasons why New Hampshire does such a great job."