Friday is the last day for registered voters to change their party affiliation for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Voters without a declared party affiliation can pull ballots for the Republican or Democratic presidential primaries. But for people declaring a party, registered Republicans who want to vote in the Democratic primary, and registered Democrats who wish to vote in the Republican presidential primary, will have to go in person to their town clerk or city clerk by 7:30 p.m. Friday to change affiliation.
Suzanne Prentiss, former mayor of Lebanon, will be among those making a switch tomorrow. Prentiss is undeclared, so she would have been able to vote in the Democratic primary for the candidate she’s endorsed: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. But she said registering as a Democrat felt like an important statement.
Prentiss said she changed from Republican to undeclared about two years ago, she said. The party is becoming less moderate, she said, and less welcoming of divergent views. And she feels the Republican party is becoming wrapped up with a sense of grievance. “I just can’t do it, Prentiss said.
Voters have to go in person to their town clerk or city clerk’s office to fill out a form to change affiliation. For people like Prentiss who want to change party affiliation on Friday, New Hampshire’s town and city halls are required to be open late on Friday — from 7 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Manchester City Hall will be open straight through from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., said JoAnn Ferruolo, Manchester’s assistant city clerk
“We’re not closing for dinner,” Ferruolo said.
Ferruolo said few people changed their affiliation in recent weeks, and does not expect too many people to change on Friday.
“We will probably have more disappointed people afterward than we will have changing right now,” she said. “It’s just not on the voter’s mind right now.”
Party affiliation was top-of-mind for Peter Vellis of Bedford on Wednesday, when he changed his registration from Republican to Democrat. Vellis had been a Republican because he believes in the free market and a strong defense, he said. “That’s what I thought the Republican party really stood for,” Vellis said. But he has grown frustrated with the Trump presidency. He plans to vote for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Bill Spirdione is a former Republican who changed his affiliation in 2016. He voted in the Republican primary — he’d rather not say who he voted for — but voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election. He changed his party affiliation shortly after the election because he wanted a candidate who would try to make some big changes.
“I’ve been working harder and harder, and falling further behind,” said Spirdione, a construction worker from Hudson.
Most of his family and co-workers are still Republicans, Spirdione said, but he wanted to try something new.
“Why not give it a chance?” he said. He’s backing Warren.
Becky Gilbert, an Epsom resident, said she had been a registered Republican since her father took her to town hall to register to vote on her 18th birthday.
Gilbert always voted in the Republican primary, she said, but did not always vote Republican in general elections. Gilbert voted for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 primary, but voted for Clinton in the general election.
Over the summer, Gilbert changed her party affiliation to Democrat. After seeing 16 candidates across the state, she decided to support Warren and registered as a Democrat so she could make her voice heard in the primary. She’s also been encouraging her friends and family to change their affiliations too.
Gilbert worries people think they will be able to change affiliation at the polls — but for people who are already registered to vote, the deadline is 7:30 p.m. Friday.