Michigan ruling echoes in N.H.

Yesterday, a Michigan court ruled it's not constitutional for that state to underwrite a primary while providing voter data to only the two major parties. Next week in Merrimack County Superior Court, plaintiffs will argue the same thing in a hearing over a law passed by the New Hampshire Legislature last year. The law allows major parties to buy what New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union lawyer Barbara Keshen termed "sensitive, private and significant" voter information, like gender, year of birth and voter history.

Keshen, who is representing the Libertarian Party in asking for an order enjoining the law's enforcement, argues that the data should be sold either to all parties on the ballot or to none. "It makes it that much more difficult for minority parties to get out their messages," Keshen said. "In our view, it dilutes the marketplace of ideas."

The Michigan ruling threw into question whether that state will be able to go ahead with a Jan. 15 primary and added uncertainty to New Hampshire's as-yet unscheduled primary date. Yesterday, Secretary of State Bill Gardner made no move, saying he's waiting for finality for Michigan.

Gardner opposed the voter data sale law last spring, and he noted that the Michigan ruling is on the "same principle" as the New Hampshire lawsuit. Luckily, the date of our primary is in no way tied to the sales.

- Lauren R. Dorgan