Absentee ballot protocol needs work for upcoming elections

  • Voting in Peterborough for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/21/2020 4:00:44 PM

More than half of Peterborough’s Town Meeting and electoral ballots were cast by absentee voters last Tuesday. Absentee voting is expected to be used in the state and federal elections in Sept. and Nov. to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, along with special precautions taken at the polls. Last week’s voting provided several takeaways for the upcoming elections, according to Town Clerk Linda Guyette, who reflected on the process several days after the election.

Some residents weren’t clear on how to correctly return their absentee ballots, Guyette said. Ballots must be mailed to the Town Clerk’s office before 5 p.m. on election day, she said – ballots simply postmarked on election day will not be counted. “We had people putting it into the outside mail box at the post office,” on election day, she said. Those ballots were not counted.

To return a ballot on election day, a voter must give it to Peterborough US Post Office personnel and ask for them to keep it in-house for the 5 p.m. pickup, Guyette said, and will still need to pay whatever it would cost to mail it.

Voters are not allowed to return their own or family members’ ballots at the polls, Guyette said. “If you come to the polls to return an absentee ballot, we cannot accept your absentee ballot. You must vote in person,” she said. Five people voted in person Tuesday after they attempted to return their ballot at the polls. “We had to send people to the Post Office when they showed up at the polls with their spouse’s or child’s ballot,” she said. The biggest complaint the Clerk’s office received on election day was from people attempting to submit ballots for someone else. “They can return a ballot for a spouse, child or parent but the person returning the ballot is required to sign an affidavit,” she said. “That is New Hampshire State law. And before the law went into effect, no one could return someone else’s ballot.”

As of Tuesday, Guyette said she was not aware of any other complaints related to an absentee ballot. “I did have someone email me that they received an incomplete ballot at the polls, but it was determined that he was mistaken because there was no way that he could have received a ballot printed in the manner that he described,” she said.

504 of the 531 absentee ballots the Town Clerk’s office sent out were returned, she said. 31, or six percent, of the ballots that were returned were rejected: 15 weren’t received until after election day, 15 lacked a completed affadavit, which is required for the ballot to be counted, and one was returned without a name in the return portion of the envelope or an affadavit.

“In-person voting at the polls went very well and we had crews keeping voting booths clean, offering hand sanitizer and masks at the entrances, etc.,” she said, but there were only 857 votes cast in total: relatively low traffic compared to what Guyette expects for the Sept. primary and the State General election on Nov. 3.


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