Francestown braves nor’easter to cast vote

  • Paul St. Cyr throws sand on the stairs in front of the Francestown Town Hall for residents who braved the snow storm that struck the area on Tuesday. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

  • Francestown select board chair Brad Howell places ballots into ballot boxes during the town’s local election Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—

  • Francestown residents braved the snow storm to get out and vote Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, March 16, 2017

A nor’easter that dumped about a foot and a half of snow across the region was not enough to deter Francestown to postpone its scheduled town election day.

“I haven’t heard a word of complaint from the people who have come in,” Francestown Town Moderator Paul Lawrence said Tuesday morning shortly after the polls opened. “It doesn’t mean they’re not inconvenienced and that it’s not difficult. But people here are used to dealing with stuff like this.”

A rush of people arrived when the polls opened Tuesday morning, casting their ballots early before the brunt of the storm slammed the area.

Select Board incumbent Abigail Arnold was able to ward off her opponent, Dennis Orsi, receiving 272 votes to Orsi’s 137.

Betsy Hardwick and Sarah Pyle received spots on the Planning Board, taking away 259 and 241 votes respectively. Stephan Morrissey gathered 350 votes in an uncontested race for the ConVal School Board seat.

A total of 411 ballots were cast during the election, out of a total 1,171 names recorded on its checklist. Last year, 506 people cast their ballot out of 1,088 who were registered.

Lawrence said he has been the moderator for about 20 years and during his tenure he has seen storms strike on the same day as election day, but Francestown has never had to call voting off completely.

“This is ski country, and this is a skiing town, so when it snows things generally come alive around here. We don’t shut down,” Lawrence said.

He said the town made the decision to hold the event as scheduled after a conference call between Gov. Chris Sununu and town officials Monday afternoon. During that call, Sununu advised town officials to hold their elections despite snow predictions, although he said he would understand if they chose not to.

Lawrence said there were also conflicting state statutes at work, which lead to some confusion between towns as well, although Francestown remained steadfast in its decision.

To prepare for the snow, Lawrence said, the town set up a ride service. Town Administrator Jamie Pike said he made some last-minute calls Monday evening, and was able to corral three volunteers for the ride service.

One of the volunteers, Paul St. Cyr, said no one had requested a ride as of about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, but that he was ready to go if a call came in.

Lawrence said the town also worked hard to make sure the roads were plowed and that people had proper access to the building throughout the day.

“We’re just trying to make sure we are doing all we can to make it accessible, even though the weather is doing everything to make it inaccessible,” Lawrence said.

Some complained as they walked in that the driveway leading into the Town Hall was slippery, and some even lost their balance and fell while coming in.

St. Cyr, who was parked outside of the Town Hall, located a bucket of sand in the back of his pickup and started tossing it across a set of stairs for better traction.

“Be careful,” he called to a couple of people walking off after they had cast their votes. “It’s awfully slick. Three or four people have already fallen.”

Emily Howarth scraped the back of her car windshield after she had voted.

“It wasn’t bad, this is my second trip to town,” she said. “But it’s getting greasy now.”

Howarth said local elections are important.

“They’re all good people and they do a good job,” she said about the elected officials.

Jennifer Byington also braved the storm to cast her vote. She said she was not quite sure what time voting began, so she arrived at the Town Hall ready to cast her ballot at around 8:15 a.m. with the intention of beating the storm, only to find out that polls didn’t open until 10 a.m.

“Once I got here I thought I’m only about two miles from my house and worst-comes-to-worst, I’ll just walk home if I have to,” she said, explaining her rationale for waiting more than an hour and a half for the doors to open.

She said she was rather productive while she killed time.

“I stopped by the general store, got myself a donut and then I realized how filthy the inside of my car was so I was like right, I’m always thinking I’m going to get to cleaning out my car, and there’s no time like the present, so I turned on the news and listened to what’s being voted on by our state government and got in the mood [to vote],” she said.

Byington didn’t want to share her personal political leanings, but said local elections are very important.

“I think that it’s very easy to feel like we don’t have a lot of say in what happens in the world and it’s very easy to sit back and say, ‘Gee, everything is going terribly’ and this and that,” Byington said. “And we tend to forget, especially at the local level, that there are elections that are won or lost by one vote.”

She said she also doesn’t feel like there is a lot of mutual understanding between the constituents and the leaders in politics these days, which is stalling important issues.

“If I sit there and hold those opinions and I don’t do my little part to drive two miles in a snowstorm to go vote, who am I to complain?” Byington said.

A full list of town election results are available on the Francestown town website.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.