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Surge in absentee ballots notable during Tuesday’s primary; plus breakdowns of local winners

  • Voting at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Voting at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Voting at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Hancock conducted voting in the engine bays at the Fire Department on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • Hancock conducted voting in the engine bays at the Fire Department on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • Hancock conducted voting in the engine bays at the Fire Department on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/9/2020 4:28:58 PM

Election workers counted more absentee ballots than ever before during the 2020 New Hampshire primary election Tuesday, as COVID-19 loomed over the proceedings and forced several changes to procedure.

Voter turnout was up 159 percent compared to the 2016 state primaries, and absentee ballots comprised about a third of all votes in the Monadnock region this year, up from just 4.7 percent in 2016. Democrats used absentee ballots at substantially higher rates than Republican voters.

Monadnock region Democrats cast absentee ballots at far greater rates than Republicans in Tuesday’s primary. Absentee ballots comprised anywhere from 31 percent of Democratic votes in Greenville to 55 percent in Dublin and Peterborough, while Republican absentee ballots comprised anywhere from seven (New Ipswich) to 30 percent (Hancock) of the party’s vote.

Overall, absentee ballots accounted for almost a third (31 percent) of votes cast in the 14 towns in the Ledger-Transcript coverage area providing absentee ballot information by deadline time. Greenville had the lowest percentage of absentee votes at 18 percent and Peterborough had the highest percentage, at 47 percent.

Those numbers are substantially up from the 2016 state primary, when just 4.7 percent voted absentee in those same towns.

Primary results

The primaries set up a series of interesting races to be voted on in-person on Nov. 3 and by absentee ballot anytime beforehand. 

Dan Feltes took the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, edging out Andru Volinsky by about 6,000 votes for the right to face Republican incumbent Chris Sununu. Despite losing the statewide race, Volinsky cleaned up in the Monadnock region, beating Feltes in all 16 of the towns in the Ledger-Transcript’s coverage area.  

Corky Messner will face Jeanne Shaheen for New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate seat after holding off Don Bolduc with just over 50 percent of the vote. The incumbent Shaheen received over 94 percent of the vote against her two Democratic challengers.

Incumbent Democrat U.S. Representative Ann Kuster will face Republican Steven Negron. Kuster won handily over her competitor Joseph Mirzoeff with 92 percent of the vote, while Negron mustered about 48 percent in a tight race with Lynne Blankenbeker. 

Neither the Republican nor Democratic Executive Council – District 2 candidates were set as of press time Wednesday. Democrat Cinde Warmington holds a slight edge over Leah Plunkett, and Republican Jim Beard was up a few points over Stewart Levenson. 

For Executive Council – District 5, Republican Dave Wheeler beat Bob Clegg and will face incumbent Democrat Debora Pignatelli, who ran unopposed. 

All the local state senate seats featured unopposed candidates on both sides of the aisle. In District 8, Jenn Alford-Teaster (D) faces incumbent Ruth Ward (R); in District 9, Denise Ricciardi (R) faces incumbent Jeanne Dietsch (D) of Peterborough; in District 11, incumbent Shannon Chandley (D) faces Gary Daniels (R), and in District 12, incumbent Melanie Levesque (D) faces Kevin Avard (R). 

Republican Matthew Santonastaso topped Franklin Sterling Jr. of Jaffrey for the Cheshire District 14 House nomination; he’ll face Democrat Andrew Maneval.

Gene Anderson and Patricia Martin grabbed the Democratic nominations for the two Cheshire District 11 House seats, while incumbent John Hunt and Jim Qualey took the two Republican nominations. 

Incumbent Marjorie Porter and Susanne White are the Hillsborough District 1 Democratic nominees, while Jim Fedolfi and John Valera snagged the Republican noms. 

Incumbent Democrat Daniel Pickering of Hancock and Republican David Bedard both ran unopposed for the Hillsborough District 3 nominations.

Incumbent Democrats Kermit Williams and Jennifer Bernet and Republican challengers Jim Kofalt and Lisa Post, all of Wilton, ran unopposed and will square off for the two Hillsborough District 4 seats. 

Incumbent Democrats Ivy Vann and Peter Leishman withstood newly minted Democratic challenger Judy Wilson Ferstenberg for Peterborough’s Hillsborough District 24 nominations; Christopher Maidment and David Pilcher are the Republican nominees. 

Laura Lynch and Elizabeth Crooker of Temple are the Democrats looking to unseat incumbent Republican Paul Somero of New Ipswich in Hillsborough District 25; Somero will run alongside fellow Republican Diane Kelley. 

The Hillsborough District 26 race is down to Democrats Brian Rater and Chris Wheeler, who’ll face Republicans Diane Pauer and John Lewicke for two open seats. 

And in Hillsborough District 38, it’s incumbent Democrat Jim Bosman of Francestown and Stephanie Hyland facing off against Republicans Jim Creighton and Riche Colcombe. 

Protocols in place

Wilton moved its voting location from the Town Hall to the high school to create a little more space for voters and poll workers to socially distance. Town Clerk Jane Farrell posted a large sign at the Town Hall directing absentee voters to drop their ballots off at the high school, where the official dropbox was located and staffed.

Many polling places instituted an outdoor voting area for people who refused to wear masks into the polls. In Wilton, that meant a corner of the gym with its own entrance was blocked off, so those who didn’t want to wear masks to vote could do so without mingling with others. Farrell said about five people had taken advantage of that by midday Tuesday.

In Greenfield, Town Clerk Dorene Adams said voting went off “without a hitch.” The town did not designate a separate area for voters without masks and a handful came through to vote, she said. The poll workers and supportive community members were a highlight of the day, Adams said.

Voters without masks were accommodated in a separate room of the town hall in Antrim. Between five and 10 residents opted for the mask-free voting experience in Antrim, Town Clerk Diane Chauncey said.

Interesting write-ins

In New Ipswich, traveling evangelist Torben Sondergaard – he of the controversial tent revival – received a write-in vote for the state representative seat currently held by Paul Somero. Another New Ipswich voter wrote in “anyone but Paul.”


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