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Pending storm stirs legal question over Tuesday elections in New Hampshire

March 14,2017 01:12

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — There was no calm before the storm, just lots of confusion. Local elections for most New Hampshire towns were scheduled for Tuesday, the day a nor'easter is expected. Many towns decided to postpone them, even though the ...


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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — There was no calm before the storm, just lots of confusion.
Local elections for most New Hampshire towns were scheduled for Tuesday, the day a nor’easter is expected. Many towns decided to postpone them, even though the secretary of state’s office said they couldn’t.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, following a conference call with towns and the attorney general, strongly recommended Monday that the elections be held.
“We think that’s a very important part of the process,” he said. “But given those differing opinions I don’t think we’re in a position to mandate that towns stay open.”

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He said towns are postponing elections “at their risk,” suggesting they could be open to lawsuits for voter suppression. His office is recommending towns that choose to move their elections make sure someone is available to provide absentee ballots during the scheduled voting time.
He did not have a number of how many towns have moved their elections. More than 100 participate in the elections.
Some towns, such as Candia, which moved its elections to Thursday, pointed to another state law that says in the event of a “weather emergency” on or before a voting day or a deliberative session the town moderator can reschedule up to two hours beforehand.
Cordell Johnston, government affairs counsel for the New Hampshire Municipal Association, said the phone had been “ringing off the hook” with questions from town officials. He said the law clearly states that it’s up to the moderator and that there is “unanimous agreement” among town attorneys.
Sununu said the state has had major snowstorms on election days before.
“It was quite surprising to us that a lot of towns chose to take this path all of a sudden, but they did and we have to be respectful of that,” he said.

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Democrats, meanwhile, plan to introduce emergency legislation later this week to ensure that results from postponed elections are enforced.
Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn and House Democratic Leader Steven Shurtleff said the Legislature should step in to eliminate confusion and ensure that towns that postpone their elections can do so. They plan to introduce legislation Wednesday at a meeting of the Senate Rules and Enrolled Bills Committee.

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