New Hampshire's constitution, adopted in 1784, is the second oldest in the country. New Hampshire is the only state in which amendments to the constitution must be proposed by convention; once every seven years a popular vote determines the necessity for constitutional revision. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor and five powerful administrative officers called councillors. The governor is elected for a two-year term and is traditionally limited to two successive terms. Perhaps the most unusual feature of New Hampshire politics is the size of its bicameral legislature (General Court), one of the largest representative bodies in the English-speaking world, with 24 senators and 400 representatives, all elected for two years. The state elects two senators and two representatives to the U.S. Congress and has four electoral votes.
The New Hampshire presidential primary is among the first to be held in election years and has often forecast national trends or influenced election outcomes. The primary is itself a major New Hampshire "industry." Republicans have played the dominant role in New Hampshire politics since the Civil War, but Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, was elected governor in 1996 and reelected in 1998 and 2000. In 2002, Republican Craig Benson was elected to the office, but he was defeated by Democrat John Lynch in 2004. Lynch was reelected in 2006, 2008, and 2010. In 2012, Maggie Hassan, a Democrat was elected governor.
Among the state's institutions of higher learning are the Univ. of New Hampshire, at Durham; Keene State Univ.; Dartmouth College, at Hanover; and Franklin Pierce College, at Rindge.