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November 05. 2012 8:47PM

Scramble on to get ballots to NH power crews working out of state after storm

Election officials were striving Monday to get ballots to electrical line crews who are working out-of-state to restore power in communities struck by Hurricane Sandy.

The AFL-CIO said more than 300 line workers who left the state last week, mostly for Connecticut, will not be able to vote unless officials can get ballots to them. They are relying on a 2006 law, which requires officials to make every reasonable effort to get ballots to police, firefighters, utility workers, American Red cross volunteers and others involved in disaster relief or a deployment.

"At this point, it's really late in the process," said Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan. "It's something that should have been done last week. We're trying to be accommodating, but we're at the end of the rope."

Scanlan said he's heard of about 20 anecdotal cases of line workers who have contacted their town clerk and asked for ballots. The Secretary of State's office has told town clerks to use overnight carriers to get the ballots to the workers, and include another overnight envelop for the ballot to be returned.

He said the Secretary of State's office will pay for the mailings. Any absentee ballot must be sent out no later than Monday, and received at town halls no later than 5 p.m. today.

At noontime Monday, the Secretary of State's office had not decided how to get ballots to eight line workers from southeast New Hampshire who were working in Connecticut. Scanlan did not rule out driving the ballots to them, although state law said police could be used only to drive ballots to a New Hampshire location.

Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, said he's pleased with the efforts by the Secretary of State to get the ballots to the line workers. He said the effort could involve more than 300 people, mostly members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers locals in Dover, Barrington, Manchester and Boston.

Scanlan said his office heared from the IBEW on Friday. But the union sent information to an incorrect email address, and it wasn't until Monday that the mistake was realized.

mhayward@unionleader.com

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