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More than 70 NH towns postpone elections due to nor'easter

Bement Bridge, a covered bridge in Bradford, New Hampshire, after a snow storm in January. (Dan Tuohy/NHPR)
Bement Bridge, a covered bridge in Bradford, New Hampshire, after a snow storm in January. (Dan Tuohy/NHPR)

Dozens of towns in New Hampshire have postponed their town elections Tuesday due to the winter snow storm.

The Secretary of State confirmed as of 8:00 pm Monday that town elections were postponed in more 70 municipalities. The list, which is posted on the state’s website, will be updated if additional towns make announcements.

Some other towns were adjusting absentee voting windows to accommodate residents who may not be able to attend annual meetings Tuesday due to the snow storm.

Under a law passed in 2019, voters in any town under a National Weather Service storm warning concerned about traveling could vote absentee on Monday, with each town setting its own hours. Voters are encouraged to check with their local clerk regarding hours of operation.

In Rye, the town clerk announced Sunday that their office would be open Monday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., for those who want to vote absentee instead of going to the polls on Tuesday.

Sunapee announced voters could obtain ballots Monday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for use only before annual election Tuesday, if the qualified voter has concerns for their safety traveling in the storm, or if they would be unable to vote in person due to cancellation of school, child care or adult care.

According to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, towns had until 6 p.m Monday (March 13) to announce any possible delays for their scheduled town meeting. The make-up date would be in two weeks – on March 28.

The Monadnock Region is forecast to see some of the heaviest snows Tuesday. In Jaffrey, which could get a foot and a half to two feet, Tuesday’s municipal elections will be pushed back until late March.

Town Manager Jon Frederick, speaking shortly after the decision was made Monday morning, said officials planned to get the word out to voters however they could.

“We'll have a message on Facebook, on our website," he said. "We’re going to have variable message boards that we'll put out, and then we'll post to places. And we'll do a code red as well, which is a phone calling system.”

The business portion of Jaffrey's meeting was still on track for Saturday.

In Winchester, Town Clerk Jim Tetreault said this year’s election was expected to be more involved than usual because the town was set to test out new voting machines. That factored into the town’s decision to postpone, he said.

“One of the technicians was flying up from Alabama, and the sales rep from [Election Systems & Software] was driving up from Philadelphia,” he said. An official with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office was also driving into town.

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Some other towns in the area planned to go ahead with elections Tuesday. That included the six that make up the Monadnock Regional School District — Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy. (Update: As of early Tuesday, Fitzwilliam announced to push its town meeting back to Thursday evening.)

School District Moderator Bill Hutwelker said that under the legislation passed in 2019, the towns had to reach a collective decision about whether to postpone or not. Moderators from four of the six towns voted to move forward as planned Tuesday, after checking with local public safety and highway officials, he said.

“The expectation was that the roads would be cleared sufficiently enough for people to be able to get to the polls,” he said. “Obviously, we’re New Hampshirites. We live here and we anticipate these kinds of things.”

Swanzey’s town hall was open till 6 p.m. Monday for people who wanted to request an absentee ballot, according to a news release from the town.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State had planned on testing new ballot counting devices in four towns on Tuesday, but Winchester and Milford have postponed their votes until later this month. Voters in Ashland and Londonderry will use new machines, with an audit planned for later this week.

The state is seeking to replace the aging AccuVote machines, the only currently approved ballot counting device.

Londonderry Town Manager Michael Malaguti did caution voters to come early by either voting absentee on Monday or proceeding to polls earlier in the day.

“Conditions are going to be much worse in the afternoon than in the morning,” Malaguti said. “Come earlier than later is what we’re advising.”

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New Hampshire Public Radio.

NHPR's Todd Bookman, Paul Cuno-Booth, Olivia Richardson and Dan Tuohy contributed to this story.

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