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N.H. still has time to slate primary, official says

The secretary of state waits to see if Michigan pursues a Jan. 15 vote.

November 18, 2007|From the Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. — With Michigan's plan for a Jan. 15 presidential primary in limbo, New Hampshire's secretary of state says he still has plenty of time to set a date that en- sures his state maintains its first-in-the-nation primary tradition.

"Let Michigan do whatever it wants to do, and we'll deal with it," said Secretary of State William M. Gardner, speaking at a forum Saturday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.

Wearing a "Protect Our Primary" sticker on his sweater vest, Gardner seemed unfazed by a Michigan court ruling Friday that turned down a law that would have allowed that state to hold its primary Jan. 15.

The court ruled against a provision giving Michigan's political parties exclusive access to records showing voters' names and whether they took Democratic or Republican ballots.

With time running short for election planners and campaigns, attention is focusing on a date for New Hampshire's primary, which will begin a quick series of primaries nationwide.

Gardner met with 12 other secretaries of state in Washington on Friday to discuss ways to bring order to the chaotic primary schedule. He said a proposal they were working on would maintain Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary in the first spots on the calendar, but also give larger states a prominent role in selecting party nominees.

Gardner would not say how much lead time he needs to carry out the primary after he sets the date, and he would not comment on speculation that it would come Jan. 8.

"Anything I say would limit us," Gardner said.

"We'd be able to do it faster than most people would think."

New Hampshire law requires that its primary be at least a week ahead of any similar election.

Michigan lawmakers are expected to meet next week to discuss whether they will continue trying for a Jan. 15 primary, or move it to another date.

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