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Illegal elections: Wrong way to run things

March 18. 2017 7:51PM

Steve, Suzanne and Preston Valley leave the Amherst polls on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Kimberly Houghton)

What happens if we get a heavy snowstorm on Election Day in November 2020?

Can New Hampshire towns put off voting for president until the weekend, in order to boost turnout? Should the rest of the nation wait because a handful of local moderators decided to ignore or misinterpret the law?

It might seem simple enough to postpone last Tuesday's local elections because of snow and wind, but giving local officials discretion to move the date of an election has broad and troubling consequences.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner warned moderators who canceled official ballot voting on Tuesday that state law provided them no such authority. The rescheduled voting times could be subject to legal challenge from someone on the losing side of an election, or a warrant article.

The law clearly gives moderators authority to move town meetings because of bad weather, but has no such provision for ballot voting. The New Hampshire Municipal Association used a convoluted reading of the statute to argue they could. Many towns followed this sketchy legal advice.

Now state Sen. Jeff Woodburn wants to give New Hampshire towns that ignored Gardner's advice a blanket amnesty, and has received permission to file a late bill to give the Legislature's blessing to these illegal elections.

That's a bad precedent to set, telling local officials that they only have to follow New Hampshire election laws when they don't find them overly inconvenient.

It's just easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Pandering politicians like Woodburn are willing to ignore the law.

Here's a compromise. The state will ratify the results of these delayed elections, but only where the affected towns' moderators acknowledge the error of their wandering ways.

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