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Broderick expects constitutional amendments to founder

By Mark Hayward
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 06. 2012 8:58PM

The strong turnout in Tuesday's election will probably doom an attempt to weaken the Judiciary, former Chief Justice John Broderick said.

Broderick, who opposed the proposed constitutional amendment, said the amendment would have to gain two-thirds of the votes of everyone who shows up at the polls, athough many will likely skip the question or vote no because they are not familiar with it.

'For the average voter at a polling place. He's in a hurry, he's double parked, it's going to be hard to read and understand it,' said Broderick, the current dean at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. 'People are so focused on the President, the governors race, the House races, that's just sucked all the oxygen away' from the constitutional questions.

Broderick has taken a leading role in opposition to the amendment, which could give the Legislature some ability to write rules that govern court procedure. He said this is the second time such an amendment has gone before voters; in 2004 about 62 percent favored it, not enough to meet the two-thirds threshhold.

Meanwhile, the supporter of another proposed amendment -- one to ban income and sales taxes - said a two-thirds majority will be an uphill battle. Kevin Smith of No Income Tax PAC said he's encouraged. Polls have shown the constitutional amendment, one of the three on the ballot, trending in the right direction.

'I've always felt 67 percent is an uphill battle,' said Smith, who ran for governor in the Republican primary but lost to Ovide Lamontagne.

A third amendment would seat a constitutional convention.

The income-tax amendment has drawn the most attention. Both candidates for governor took a stand on the amendment, and organizations ran campaigns for and against the tax amendment.

Smith said the most recent University of New Hampshire poll had the question ahead by a 51-41 margin. But he believes the question will have more support among committed voters who take their time to go through the entire ballot.

Still, as he read the question in the ballot box he was a little worried.

'I thought to myself, how many people are going to read this, not understand it and vote no or not vote at all?' Smith said.

Opposition to the tax amendment came from groups such as Granite State Priorities, which was previously known as the Granite State Fair Tax Coalition, and Granite State Organizing Project.

Organizing Project head Sarah Jane Knoy said her group sent letters to its members, as well as the churches involved in the advocacy group. The letter encouraged church leaders to speak out against the tax amendment. Their message was to protect the constitution.

'The New Hampshire budget is a disaster, and it's not smart to rule out a conversation of any options,' Knoy said.

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