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As storm hits NH, it's 'business as usual' for local poll workers

Union Leader Correspondent

March 12. 2018 9:12PM
More heavy snow is in the forecast, but local towns, including Hooksett, will still have polls open today. (Ryan O'Connor)

Despite another nor’easter forecast to hit the state today, it will be ‘business as usual’ for local poll workers.

Voters heading to the polls for their annual municipal and school elections today will do so in the middle of a snowstorm.

While forecasters Monday predicted 8-15 inches of snow for most of the region, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner announced all elections would take place as scheduled, citing a March 6 memorandum prohibiting local public officials from postponing elections.

In the memo to local election officials Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald write, “New Hampshire law does not contain a provision that authorizes any public official to postpone an election.”

A bill approved by the Senate last week requires towns to check with the secretary of state before making any changes to town meeting day schedules.

“Elections should be postponed only in extraordinary circumstances where there is a clear, imminent, and serious threat to public health or safety,” the bill reads. “The cancellation of classes at public schools due to weather or the routine issuance of storm travel advisories by highway and safety officials alone shall not justify the postponement of election.”

Town clerks around the state stayed busy Monday, many extending their office hours to accept absentee ballots from those who said they wouldn’t be in town on election day.

“We have a lot of people coming in who can’t make it back because of the snowstorm,” said Weare Town Clerk Maureen Billodeau.

Many parents who were anticipating school cancellations were also eligible to cast absentee ballots because of child care concerns, said Goffstown Town Administrator Adam Jacobs.

As for today, some election officials said they’re abiding by the state law and moving forward with election plans in spite of the weather.

“Business as usual,” said Bedford Town Clerk Lori Radke.

Jacobs said Goffstown officials met Monday morning to discuss the storm and potential ramifications.

“For us tomorrow, our biggest concerns are two-fold; people who are coming out to vote and then the poll workers,” said Jacobs. “It’s good to have volunteers, but the nature of that type of volunteer work is they often tend to be a bit older, so we’re not only concerned with how do they get there, but how do they get home, and when they do, will they have a foot and a half of snow in their driveway?”

Several volunteers informed Goffstown’s supervisors of the checklist they wouldn’t make it to the polls, but Jacobs said he’s hoping any volunteer shortage will be negated by what’s likely going to be a lighter turnout due to the storm. He said, if necessary, selectmen can assist as long as they don’t handle ballots.

“We’ll also have a handful of us shoveling in shifts, and there might be some shuttling that needs to happen,” he said. “At this point, it’s whatever we can do to get the (volunteers and voters) in and home safely. That’s certainly the priority.”

Education Environment Outdoors Politics Public Safety Weather Transportation Allenstown Goffstown Hooksett Weare

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