Town Meeting Live Blog: Turnout In N.H. Towns Varies With Issues, Storm Predictions

Mar 13, 2018

Today, voters in towns around the state will cast ballots in local elections. Like last year, a severe snowstorm is complicating matters, especially in the wake of the state's claim that towns don't have the power to reschedule local votes.

NHPR's reporters are in the field covering polls around the state throughout Town Meeting Day. Bookmark this blog and check back to see photos, hear from voters, and more.

Click here for NHPR's coverage of local issues leading up to Town Meeting Day. 

Live blog:

5:15 p.m.: Voters get to the polls...with poles

Responding to the call of NHPR's Casey McDermott, Twitter user K. Lee Mock showed us how she made it out to vote today:

3:05 p.m.: Lebanon voters unfazed by snow

Credit Britta Greene for NHPR

In Lebanon, voters hit the polls early to avoid the worst of the snow. Longtime residents Sheila Moran and David Millstone told NHPR's Britta Greene that at this point, March storms don’t come as a surprise to them. In fact, they say it adds a bit of flair to the election season.

"It’s new Hampshire! It’s New Hampshrie! It’s New Hampshire in the winter. And this is what you do in a democracy, is you vote!”

1:25 p.m.: Polls slower than usual in Bedford

Casey McDermott spoke to Bedford's assistant town moderator Ralph Dieter, who says turnout so far is at just 8.5%, which is slove, even for a town election. (See video below)

Meanwhile, at the New Hampshire State House:

1:21 p.m.: Despite the weather, some New Hampshire voters can't be kept from voting, as Britta Greene found out

12:10 p.m.: In Exeter, big issues and bad weather collide

Darius Thompson, a candidate for selectman in Exeter, shovels the walkway outside the polls
Credit Lara Bricker for NHPR

In Exeter, voters are weighing a $23 million dollar expansion to the town's middle school, as well as renovations and expansions of both the public library and a local park. 

As NHPR has been reporting, weather conditions on the Seacoast are deteriorating rapidly, creating challenging travel conditions for voters headed to the polls.

11:45 a.m.: Some town official frustrated by state's take on elections

Town elections are going ahead as normal across New Hampshire today in spite of the weather. That’s in large part thanks to a memo from state officials that told local governments they do not have the authority to reschedule their elections.

Many local officials, including Durham town administrator Todd Selig, have expressed frustration at that interpretation.

“When it comes to the most local of actions, which is your local town meeting, your local election day, the local moderator, who is elected locally, should be able to make that call.”

In Bow, voter Beverly Griswold says nothing stops her from doing her civic duty.

"It's my right to vote! I always vote."

Last year, she says, she was out holding campaign signs despite the storm. This year, Bow state representative Bill Kuch was doing that for friends running for local office.

"It's voting day! Just like it was last year, the same thing - snow, except it's a little windier."

11:40 a.m.: In Bow, "Yankee" voters weigh in

Bow town moderator Peter Imse works the polls on Town Meeting Day
Credit Annie Ropeik for NHPR

Annie Ropeik is in Bow, where a decision on the gambling game Keno and contested races for selectboard and budget committee brought out a steady stream of morning voters.

Turnout so far is lighter than last year, says moderator Peter Imse, but still not bad.

"The voters are getting in, the roads aren't too bad yet from what I hear, and we'll carry on like we're supposed to."

Bow did see a run on absentee ballots this year, once news of the snowstorm spread. Imse says he wants to make sure voters stay safe today, with the recent state mandate that towns NOT postpone elections due to weather. But he's less worried about town meeting.

"I think by tomorrow night things will be cleared out and the Yankees will all be able to get out and get to the meeting and it shouldn't be a problem."

11:20 a.m.: Slow turnout at the polls in Durham

A snow-covered sign outside Oyster River High School in Durham.
Credit Jason Moon for NHPR

In Durham, turnout was slow this morning. But there were some intrepid voters like Wally Bothner who trekked about a mile and a half through the storm to cast his ballot.

“I came out today because it’s an absolutely beautiful day and it’s absolutely gorgeous exercise.”

Voter turnout in Durham was also likely affected by a lack of controversy. None of the town positions being voted on are even contested. Durham police are offering rides to any voters who don't feel safe driving to the polling place.

11:10 a.m.: Rye voters rush to beat the storm

The scene at the polls in Rye is crowded as residents try to beat the worst of the storm to cast a ballot. Photo by Dan Tuohy:

Voters crowd the polls for Town Meeting Day in Rye
Credit Dan Tuohy for NHPR

10:50 a.m.: Seacoast first to feel effects of storm

In Durham, a struggle to keep signs clear of snow at Oyster River High School. New Hampshire's Seacoast is likely to bear the brunt of the storm rolling through the state. Photo by Jason Moon:

Credit Jason Moon for NHPR

NHPR's Britta Greene covers the Upper Valley and Monadnock Region:

9 a.m.: Towns prepare for storm-related complications

Communities across New Hampshire spent Monday scrambling to prepare for what’s looking like another snowbound town meeting day. They've been lining up extra plow routes to ensure a safe path to the polling place.

Candia Town Clerk Christine Dupere said the looming winter storm presents challenges not just for voters, but also for election day volunteers.

"“I’ve already lost two of my ballot clerks because, you know, they’re elderly. And they won’t travel in that kind of condition, and I don’t blame them.”

Just last week, the State Senate approved a bill meant to clarify some of the confusion around when towns should be able to reschedule, for weather or otherwise. But that bill still has a long way to go before it's law.