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Sununu surprised some towns have postponed voting

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 13. 2017 3:49PM
Auburn voters cast ballots during the 2013 town election. (Union Leader file)

CONCORD -- Gov. Chris Sununu urged towns to hold voting as scheduled despite the likelihood of a blizzard on Tuesday, or be ready to face challenges.

After a conference call with municipalities across the state, Sununu acknowledged that more than a dozen towns had already postponed town elections and/or town meetings, which came as a surprise to state officials.

Sununu could not identify the towns that have postponed.

“It's our understanding that a lot of towns have already made a choice to postpone their elections,” he said in a meeting with the media in his office. “There are some differing opinions at the state level as to whether that is a valid process for them to take.”

Given that there are differing opinions among state officials, Sununu said he was reluctant to reverse the decisions to postpone.

“The best we can do is to strongly recommend that all towns stay open for voting tomorrow,” he said. “We think that's a very important part of the process. But given the differing opinions, I don't think we're in a position to mandate that towns stay open or change their direction if they choose not to.”

Sununu said if towns do decide to reschedule the vote, they do so “at their own risk” and should take precautions. Those precautions include making sure someone is at the polls handing out absentee ballots, and that officials in towns that share a cooperative school district coordinate their actions.

“It would create a lot of confusion if one town voted on a school issue and another town did not, and you get into an issue of do you release the results and how is that processed,” he said. “You never want someone to have their vote suppressed, or have someone not be able to participate in the process because of confusion at the local level.”

Sununu said in modern times, the state has never had to cancel an Election Day because of weather.

“We've had major snowstorms on voting day and Election Day before and I don't think there is precedent in 150 years that we actually cancelled,” he said. “We couldn't find a time that's been done. There is a history of making sure that voting day is voting day, so it was quite surprising to us that a lot of towns chose to take this path all of the sudden, but they did and we have to be respectful of that.”

There is one state statute that gives the moderator the option of rescheduling a town vote due to exceptional conditions, and others that say voting shall be held on certain days.

Sununu urged any community that has not yet decided how to proceed to make a decision quickly.

He also urged the state Legislature to take up the issue and resolve conflicts in state law, “So there is not this confusion going down the road.”

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