N.H. Attorney General issues election guidance

  • Concord city worker Ed Bisson sets up the voting booths at Ward 8 at the Bektash Shrine Center on Pembroke Road in Concord on Friday morning, September 4, 2020 in anticipation of Tuesday's primary voting. GEOFF FORESTER

Laconia Daily Sun  
Published: 10/30/2020 3:50:32 PM

Days before Election Day, election officials have received a lengthy memo from the state Attorney General’s Office with guidance about possible voting issues that may come up on Tuesday.

The 17-page communication addresses several issues that apply in every election, such as same-day voter registration, the processing of absentee ballots, parking at polling places, and the reporting of election results. But it also lays out procedures unique to the 2020 elections due to COVID-19, such as the need for face masks, and the reduction in the required number of voting booths in a polling place.

Two pages are dedicated to firearms inside or outside the polls, and the laws prohibiting voter suppression or intimidation. While these directives are not unique to this election, growing activity from armed far-right groups and President Trump’s calls for his supporters to watch polling places “very carefully” have raised concerns of possible disruptions or voter intimidation ahead of Tuesday’s election.

The state gives local moderators the discretion of whether to require voters to wear masks inside the polling place, but says where there is a mask mandate, localities must provide an alternative for those voters who are either unable or unwilling to wear a face covering.

For example, in Laconia, face masks are strongly encouraged, but not mandated. Laconia City Clerk Cheryl Hebert has said that voters on Tuesday “will be treated as any other voter, with or without a face mask.”

In Belmont, however, voters who insist on voting without a mask will be given an absentee ballot they can fill out in their car and then give to a waiting election official, who will bring it inside, according to the Town Clerk’s Office.

Poll workers can ask voters to remove their face masks during the check-in process, if necessary, to verify their identity. But if they do, hand sanitizer must be used by the voter before and after showing their face, and no voter’s face “should be revealed for an extended period of time,” the memo states.

While a law passed this year allows for fewer voting booths than the standard requirement of one booth for every 100 registered voters, the memo states that no reduction is expected to be necessary.

There are no state election laws that prohibit a voter from carrying a firearm whether outside the polls or into a polling place. But the memo stresses that “people at a polling place are prohibited from intimidating voters.”

Because the Attorney General’s Office is the agency primarily responsible for enforcement of state voting laws, attorneys and investigators from the AG’s office will be sent to inspect polling places for compliance with New Hampshire election laws. These inspectors will be in contact with attorneys at the AG's office so that they can respond to any issues that may arise throughout any given statewide election.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.


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