With Nor'easter in forecast, towns weigh options for scheduling votes
CONCORD -- Despite the governor "strongly" recommending towns head to the ballot box as scheduled on Tuesday, some local officials decided to postpone voting with a predicted Nor'easter bearing down on New Hampshire.
Gov. Chris Sununu weighed in on the issue after a growing number of towns postponed voting because of a predicted Nor’easter.
“Given that there are differing opinions, the best we can do is strongly recommend that all towns stay open for voting tomorrow,” Sununu said, adding he was surprised by the postponements. (Related story.)
Sununu discussed with state officials an apparent conflict in state laws over whether moderators can postpone voting or whether elections must happen on the second Tuesday in March.
“We’re in this wonderful state of confusion,” Candia Town Moderator Clark Thyng said before the governor’s comments.
Candia rescheduled its voting from Tuesday to Thursday, with Thyng citing safety concerns for voters and town workers.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service are predicting a widespread 12 to 18 inches of snow on Tuesday.
“I do acknowledge there appears to be some conflict between the two (state) statutes and I can’t tell you how it will play out,” Thyng said.
Bedford Town Moderator Brian Shaughnessy postponed Bedford’s voting until Thursday, saying state law gives him the authority “to postpone voting day of the town meeting in the event of a weather emergency.”
He said he met with town and school officials at noon Monday.
“All the participants of the meeting support my decision that it is in the best interest of public safety to postpone the election,” Shaughnessy said.
On Sunday, Secretary of State William Gardner told the New Hampshire Union Leader: “We don’t have snow days in the law for elections.”
But several towns went ahead and rescheduled voting until later this month.
Hampstead’s website read: “NEW DATE -- Tuesday, March 28th -- polls will be open from 8a-8p -- Middle School.”
Atkinson and Derry postponed town elections until March 21.
Exeter officials moved town and school elections to Thursday, but the decision raised questions about how that would impact other towns that make up School Administrative Unit 16. School Superintendent Michael Morgan said he spent Monday morning trying to get all six towns in the SAU -- Brentwood, East Kingston, Exeter, Kensington, Newfields and Stratham -- to vote on Thursday. He said he feels the towns should vote on the same day.
SAU 16 voters will vote on a nearly $22 million proposal to expand and renovate the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham.
Morgan said he would be concerned if some towns in the SAU voted Tuesday and others voted Thursday.
“I think that causes a lot of consternation. I just don’t know how that would be interpreted,” said Morgan, who was awaiting final word from the state on whether voting day could be changed at all.