Rindge Residents Question Town's Handling of Last-Minute Absentee Ballots Ahead of Snowstorm

Mar 16, 2018

At least two Rindge residents have lodged complaints with the state over how their town handled absentee voting ahead of Tuesday’s elections – raising concerns that the process was used to give an unfair advantage to certain candidates.

As this week’s town meeting day snowstorm loomed, Rindge and many other New Hampshire communities told voters they could submit absentee ballots as a way to avoid driving through a blizzard to participate in their local elections. 

New Hampshire law only allows people to vote absentee in specific circumstances – like if you have a work or caregiving commitment that will prevent you from getting to the polls, a religious observance or a disability.

In response to questions about how absentee voting would be handled amid the winter storm, state officials clarified on Monday afternoon that weather alone was not an approved excuse. But, they said, voters who were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get to the polls during Tuesday’s storm due to a disability would be allowed to vote absentee. Similarly, they said voters who had to care for a child home from school or who would be out of town for other reasons could also legally request an absentee ballot.

One of the Rindge residents complaining to the state alleged that some local candidates who prevailed in Tuesday’s elections wrongly encouraged supporters to vote absentee on Monday due to the snowstorm.

“If absentee ballots were approved to be used (because of the snowstorm) I feel that all of the residents in Rindge should have received a notification that they can all come in and do absentee ballots on Monday,” the resident wrote in an email to state officials on Thursday.

Another resident complained that a candidate for local office was present at town hall on Monday while voters were coming in to complete their absentee ballots and was inappropriately facilitating that process.

“There is something not right about a candidate touching and creating absentee ballots,” that resident wrote in an email to the state on Friday.

The attorney general’s office says it has not launched a formal investigation but is reviewing the validity of the complaints.