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Voters May Request an Absentee Ballot if They Prefer Not to Go to the Polls Due to COVID-19

Request form for an Absentee Ballot for the 2020 State Primary and/or General Elections (available here).

HB 1266, relative to voting by absentee ballot during the 2020 elections due to Covid-19, was signed into law by the Governor on July 17, 2020.

If you have concerns about going to the polls in September and/or in November due to the Coronavirus, you can request an absentee ballot and vote by mail. The bill added new, Covid-19 language to the absentee ballot request form as an option (reason) for requesting an absentee ballot: I am unable to vote in person due to concern for the novel corona virus (COVID-19).”

In addition, you now have the opportunity to fill out one absentee ballot request form for both the primary election in September and the general election in November. If you want an absentee ballot for both elections, be sure to check off the selection lines for boththe “State Primary” and “General Election.” (You can, of course, request an absentee ballot for just one of the two elections if you wish.)

I strongly encourage voters who think they may want to vote by absentee ballot this fall to submit their request for ballots as soon as possible. Historically, the Secretary of State delivers absentee ballots to city and town clerks approximately 30 days prior to an election. However, that office is trying to get the absentee ballots printed and distributed to the town and city clerks much earlier this year, and some communities have already received their primary ballots and have begun distributing them.

Further, city and town clerks anticipate that 50% or more of a district’s voters may vote by mail this fall. This volume will be imposing a huge pre-election workload on our city and town clerks. During the 2016 November Presidential Election, 4,870 voters in Ward 2 cast ballots, but only 7.3% (356) of those ballots were submitted by mail. This year, the number of absentee ballots cast could hover around 2,500 in Ward 2.

The bill also includes provisions that will allow election officials to partially process absentee ballots prior to election day, including opening the returned ballot’s outer envelope (but not the inner envelope containing the ballot) and making an “absentee voter” notation on the checklist.

I am listed as the prime sponsor of HB1266 and co-sponsors included Senator Melanie Levesque (Dist. 12), Rep. Will Pearson (Keene), and Rep. Sherry Frost (Dover). The final language for this bill was developed and driven by Sen. Tom Sherman (Rye), Vice Chair of the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee who also served on the Secretary of State’s Select Committee on 2020 Emergency Election Support. HB 1266 incorporates some of the recommendations published by that committee. My thanks to Senators Sherman and Levesque (as Chair of the Senate Election Law Committee) for the work they did to assist our voters and election officials and for getting this bill to the Governor’s desk.

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