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NH lawmakers firmly reject seceding from United States

NH lawmakers firmly reject seceding from United States

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire House overwhelmingly rejected a proposal Thursday that called for the state to secede from the United States, although 13 lawmakers supported it.

Under the secession proposal, voters would have been asked to amend the state constitution to add that New Hampshire “peaceably declares independence from the United States and immediately proceeds as a sovereign nation. All other references to the United States in this constitution, state statutes and regulations are nullified.”

Changing the New Hampshire constitution requires the support of three-fifths of the Legislature to put the question to voters, who then must approve amendments by at least a two-thirds majority.

More than 300 lawmakers voted against secession. But supporters of the measure like Matthew Santonastaso, a Republican from Rindge, argued it was just a matter of time before the union collapses.

“National divorce is going to happen. It’s inevitable, and we have an opportunity to get ahead of this,” he said.

Rep. Timothy Smith, D-Manchester, referred to the large portraits looming over lawmakers in the House chamber as he argued against the bill. Voting for it, he said, would amount to treason.

“We stand in the shadow, literally, of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, and we are considering legislation to take a star off of that flag,” he said. “We have legislation now seeking to destroy the constitution of the United States. That is beyond shameful. It is beyond disgraceful and it is a stain on the proud history of this state that we even have to entertain this.”

In December 2020, some of the proposal’s sponsors signed a manifesto declaring New Hampshire’s government “illegitimate,” calling Gov. Chris Sununu a tyrant and insisting the 2020 election is “void for fraud.”

Similar secession efforts have failed in other states, including Mississippi and South Carolina.

In October 2021, officials representing three Maryland counties wrote to legislative leaders in West Virginia expressing interesting in becoming part of the other state. Those leaders were supportive, but such a move would be legally complicated and require approval from lawmakers in both states and the U.S. Congress.