(Prepared with the assistance of our friends at the Kent Street Coalition voting rights team's material. Thank you, Kent Street!)
Covid 19 Has Exposed Weaknesses in New Hampshire's Democracy. You can help Fix it.
We're in the midst of the worst health crisis we've seen in a hundred years, creating a crisis in our Democracy, too. It seems as if some of our elected officials are doing the absolute MINIMUM to protect your ability voting rights, and NOT MUCH AT ALL to protect poll workers and voters. You and all NH voters need to speak up to avoid Wisconsin's debacle. We've create this page to give you resources to educate yourself, then speak up to the Governor, the NH Secretary of State, and to your State Representatives and Senators.
One of the key talking points is that the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in New Hampshire's electoral system that, if not addressed, will prevent its citizens from voting safely. NH is NOT PREPARED now, or for future elections with natural disasters, health emergencies or other unforseen challenges.
Actions of the Week - Simple But Powerful Actions You Can Take
- Updated June 17, 2020 -
Actions for the Week of July 1 - July 7
Action #1: A Thank You Note to the Governor on HB 1266 (and HB 1665, too!)
Mother said you need to write a thank you note. So that's what we're doing this week; writing a good, old-fashioned note thanking the Governor in advance for signing HB 1266, which he has said he is likely to do. Although this is the bare minimum he could do, it will help voters use the absentee ballot, which will help keep them and poll workers safe. We expect the Governor to sign this bill within a two-week time frame.
Now, we're also "thanking him in advance" for signing HB 1665 (which he's expected NOT to do), and laying the motherly guilt on really thick.
Ideally, you're sending real paper thank you notes with a hand-written message. If you don't have such a thing at home, I've also created some stationary for you to print out, or you can just type him a letter and send it.
Printable Thank You stationary, if you need it
Action #2: Share the Poster for friends to download and hang locally
We need you to ask your friends to download, print and distribute our poster in their community. We've done a good job in getting posters out in our own communities, but we need to start reaching out into other communities. Using email and social media, please help us get posters out to your friends. Sample message: NH Friends: I need your help in getting Open Democracy Action's "Don't Let COVID-19 Keep You From Voting" poster hung in public places around your community? This will help people who are concerned with voting in person know that they have an alternative to safely vote. The poster is an 8-1/2 x 11 color poster which can be downloaded here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/nhrebellion/pages/1986/attachments/original/1591886784/COVID-19AbsenteeVotingPoster8x11.pdf?1591886784 If you're not able to print them, let me know and I can get some preprinted ones for you. Thank you for helping your friends and neighbors vote safely!
Action #3: Join us for the Seacoast Walk / Visibility for COVID-19 Voting Safet
If you're able, join us Sunday for the Seacoast Walk for COVID-19 Voting Safety. We have about 40 signed up now and I challenge you to make me make more signs! Here's the link for more info. There will be a group - or groups - which walk, and other groups which will be staying in one place. Groups will be spread out in various high-traffic locations in and around Portsmouth. Details and RSVP are here. Masks and social distancing required.
Actions for the Week of June 24 - June 30, 2020
Action #1: Attend the Senate Election Law Hearing on Thursday, June 25, 1:30 p.m.
We gave you advance warning in last week's briefings that we thought there was a second bill, HB 1266, from Senator Sherman, being amended for COVID-19 voting. This bill allows for a Covid-19 checkbox version of the absentee ballot application, allows for secure drop boxes for ballots and ballot applications, and adds more time to process returned absentee ballots. The SOS was supported and we think it has some bipartisan support making it more acceptable to the Governor.
Not only is HB 1266 being heard, the HB 1665 advisory independent redistricting commission is being heard just prior. This establishes an independent commission to create fair voting districts and eliminate gerrymandering. Open Democracy Action supports both bills and Senator Sherman's amendment to HB 1266. This interferes with the Monadnock and Central NH team meetings, so please join in on the hearings. We'll follow up after with actions for the week.
If you want to register and sign in favor of the bill but not attend the hearing, you can do so right now, as shown in the graphic at right. You'll see there are three bills, some with both the bill and the amendment separately. There's another bill and amendment at 1 p.m., HB 1230, for which we are not taking a position.
Action #2: Contact your NH Senator on HB 1665 & HB 1266
Now that we have more specifics on Senator Sherman's COVID-19 amendent for HB 1266, and the super-important HB 1665 is before the full Senate as well, we need to get you in touch with your NH Senator this week. If you contacted them two weeks ago, that's OK. You can say, "Thanks for the conversation we had a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to get back to you about Senator Sherman's amendment to HB 1266 to tell you that the it's a really good start to preparing us for safe elections this fall . . . ." If you called earlier, send an email this time; if you sent and email, call this time.
HB 1665 is expected to clear Senate Election Law on Thursday. The question is, whether the bill will receive enough Republican support to satisfy the Governor. Likewise, HB 1266 is expected to get Ought to Pass in Senate Election Law. Senator Sherman consulted the SOS, and we're hopeful that the Republicans on the committee, Senator Birdsell and Senator Gray, will support it. The key will be whether other Republicans in the full Senate will support it. Your calls and emails are essential to making that happen.
We expect the full Senate to hear the bill this coming Monday, June 29, so time is critical. No time for postal mail, so email and calls are the mode this time. We'll be supporting this via social media and mobilizing our full membership to contact them as well.
Your Senators' Email addresses & phone numbers can be found on our NH Senate Contact Tool page
Actions for the Week of June 10 - June 16, 2020
Action #1: Call and Make Sure Your Clerk & Moderator Has Seen New SOS/AG Guidance
Last week, important documents were released from the Secretary of State's office about voting absentee and registering to vote by absentee (by mail). Problem is, the SOS town clerk/moderator/supervisor of the checklist mailing list is often out of date, and clerks in smaller towns sometimes don't get to their email as often.
1) We're calling our clerk to find out whether they received the three PDFs on absentee voting and registering absentee for election officials, and the revised one-page voter guide for the public.
2) If they haven't seen it, we're going to email all three documents to them after speaking with them.
3) Review these documents before you call.
One page info sheet for voters, June 3rd version, on absentee voting + registering by mail documents (Important! RSA 654:18 it's illegal for you to share this document with anyone but clerks, moderators and supervisors of the checklist! NH's restrictive rules don't allow for voter documents to be freely distributed.)
4) Make the call to the clerk with our sample script: Here's a sample phone script
Action #2: Send your town Clerk & Moderator (and adjoining towns if you're able) the Emergency Election Suppport committee report, and ask them to call/email the SOS
The report for Select Committee on Emergency Election Support has been released, which the clerks are unlikely to have received. While we have our town clerk on the phone, we are going to tell them about the report and send them a copy by email, and ask them to read it. If they support the recommendations, we will suggest that they drop an email to the SOS and Dep. SOS recommending that they adopt the Select Committee's recommendation.
Your sample email below has the links to all of these documents, a total of five.
Sample Email: Sample email follow up to your phone call
It includes the three documents you looked at, above, plus the Emergency Election Support committee's final report
And when you send the report, we're also going to attach a copy of our "Don't Let COVID-19 Keep You From Voting" poster for them to post in Town Hall. (Not likely, but it's worth a try!)
Actions for the Week of June 3 - June 9, 2020
Action #1 - Before next Thursday, June 11, contact your NH State Representatives
This action is similar to last week's calls and letters to your Senator. The Senate meets in Session on the 9th, and the House on the 11th. It's unlikely that your rep will even know what's going on with the Senate Election Law committee's election support legislation. And FYI, the bills in the Senate right now are House bills that are getting amended, then need to go BACK to the House for it to "concur."
So we're taking a more general approach, by expressing to your representatives that you have concerns on whether NH is prepared to keep New Hampshire voters safe, and to keep the poll workers safe. This preparation should include streamlining the absentee ballot process and the voter registration process.
Remember to be polite, and to make it as personal as you can. That's what legislators respond to.
Action #2 - Attend the Senate Hearing this Thursday, June 4, 1 pm
This Thursday, June 4, at 1 pm, the Senate Election Law hears the first of at least two COVID-19 election package bills they'll see in the next week. The bill being heard this week is and existing bill, HB 1672, which has been amended (scroll to page 21) with the COVID-19 essential changes. The bill more likely to be acceptable to Gov. Sununu, but it's got to pass the Senate committee, then the full Senate, then go back to the House. The amendment:
- Amends much about the absentee voting process, making it accessible to all voters without excuse
- Changes the absentee request form language
- Has language addressing early processing of absentee ballots
- Adds Online Voter Registration language
- Mandates enrollment into the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nationwide system which supports online voter registration by minimizing dual registrations and keeping voter registration lists cleaner.
- Directs funding for the bill come from HAVA and/or CARES Act money
Your job is to register in advance and attend this hearing, and sign in in favor of the bill. At this time, we're not asking for you to testify, but you may if you feel strongly. but to be there (via Zoom!) in a show of force. This hearing is during our normal time for Monadnock and Central NH, which will be combined and moved to a 30-minute Zoom briefing at 3 pm, after the hearing.
Here are the details you need to login in support of the bill as amended:
How to sign in to support the bill
Members of the public may attend using the following links:
1. To sign-in and/or speak in support or opposition, please register in advance by using this link: https://www.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_moBzwALYREyD7Xc7o8s_2Q
2. To submit your testimony to the committee, please send all documents via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. To listen via telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):1-301-715-8592, or 1-312-626-6799, or 1-929-205-6099, or 1-253-215-8782, or 1-346-248-7799, or 1-669-900-68334. Or iPhone one-tap: 13017158592,,91170107529# or 13126266799,,91170107529#5. Webinar ID: 911 7010 75296.
To view/listen to this hearing on YouTube, use this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjBZdtrjRnQdmg-2MPMiWrA
The following email will be monitored throughout the meeting by someone who can assist with and alert the committee to any technical issues: email@example.com call (603-271-3043).EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW
Actions for the Week of May 27 - June 2, 2020
Action #1 - Call or Write Your NH Senator
The NH Senate is meeting in session on June 9 for the first time since March. There is a legislation package in the works on COVID-19 relief, but the content of those bills is yet to be revealed. We do know that there will be fall 2020 election support elements to these bills, but at this time we don't even have a bill number.
What we can do, however, is contact our NH Senators and underscore the need for election support. While the Secretary of State, AG and the Governor have bent the rules to allow absentee voting, there are many issues that have come up in the Emergency Elections Support committee that may require legislative action and funding. We're asking Senators to support our fall elections and protect our poll workers and voters.
We are recommending that you call your senator, or to write them at their home addresses, using our NH Senate Contact Tool., which provides home addresses, emails and office phones.
Action #2 - Share Graphics, Messaging on Absentee Ballot Applications
We've prepared a group of graphics for you to share, getting the word out that absentee ballots are an option to vote in the 2020 fall elections. As you've heard in your briefings, we are VERY concerned that NH citizens might not know that they can vote by absentee, to register to vote through the mail, and how to navigate NH's overly-complicated system. We're also concerned that the more people vote in person, the higher the risk to the voters and especially the poll workers.
Our messaging is intended drive voters to 1) Download their absentee ballot request forms at their town websites or SOS.NH.GOV 2) Register to vote if they haven't 3) Seek more information at OpenDemocracyNH.org/absentee 4) Get them to SHARE this information
The grid with graphics and messages for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the 30-second video, and the poster has been moved to its own page: https://www.opendemocracyaction.org/absentee_ballot_social_media_materials
Actions for the Week of May 20-26
Emails to Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan requesting additional funding for NH Elections this fall
From the dire testimony in the Emergency Elections Support committee, t's apparent that the $3.2 million in CARES funding will not be enough to fund Covid-19 preparations for this fall's elections. A bill which passed in the U.S. House called the "HEROES Act," appropriates another $3.6 Billion nationally for election support. Read this NBC article to get a sense of what's at stake, and the Republican efforts to block it in the U.S. Senate.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, (sorry, 1970s Mission Impossible reference) is to write to Senators Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and urge them to get the deal done, but to preserve as much of that funding as possible. Tell the story about what we've learned from the testimony at the Emergency Election Support committee.
- The $3.2 million in CARES funding won't cover much beyond extra postage
- Towns and cities may have to prepare additional polling places for enough social distancing space
- PPE is being discussed for all poll workers.
- Processing high levels of absentees will require additional poll workers
- The State may need additional funding for reprinting a streamlined absentee request form & other revised documents
There will be a temptation to remove this funding from the HEROES Act in lieu of supporting other worthy earmarks. But voters MUST have confidence and access to our electoral system, and our poll workers must be kept safe. The future of our Republic may hang in the balance.
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan
It's time to start pushing voters to ask for their absentee ballot request forms. We need multiple letters to the editor in as many NH papers as possible.
Before starting, please review our "How to Vote by Absentee Ballot in New Hampshire" page and understand how the process works. Also review the new SOS One-page voter guidance on Covid 19 Voting, Registration & Party Affiliation released Monday, May 18th.
The Sierra Club has a good tool for letters to the editor, with submission guidelines & email addresses.
Action for the week of May 13, 2020
Letters to Governor Sununu asking for an executive order on registering to vote by mail, and cutting the red tape on absentee ballot requests, and streamlining the process.
During a Emergency Election Support committee meeting two weeks ago, Assistant Attorney General Nick Chong Yen hinted that there was an executive order coming from the Governor on registering to vote by mail. The only thing that has been mentioned was a news report of a remark by the SOS that if a person claims fear of Covid 19, they could also register to vote by mail -- not official But here are some of the issues:
- If I do claim "fear of Covid 19" and want to register to vote by mail, the form is five pages long, plus proof of domicile documents/scans.
- If I DON'T claim "fear of Covid 19, my only options are to stand in line for same-day registration, or if I'm lucky, my clerk's office *might* be open. We've heard stories of clerks telling citizens, "Come back when Covid 19 is over."
- The NH Constitution, Part 1, Article 11 says voter registration must be "accessible" to all. It's not, despite what the Secretary of State is telling you!
- The whole process of requesting an absentee ballot, one of the most stringent in the country, is wrapped in red tape. If there's a time for reducing regulations, this is the time to cut the red tape and streamline the process.
Governor Christopher Sununu
Office of the Governor
107 North Main Street Concord, NH 03301
firstname.lastname@example.org (writing a postal letter or postcard is more powerful)
Action for week of May 5, 2020: Write an Email to Members of the Select Committee on Emergency Election Support
Sec. of State William Gardner has appointed a committee to make recommendations on preparedness for the 2020 state and federal elections and to help oversee how federal CARES money should support these efforts. The members of this commission are:
- Bradford E. Cook Chairman, Ballot Law Commission. He has served multiple terms on the commission beginning in the 1980s. He was first appointed by the governor and executive council and over the years by Republican and Democratic speakers of the house.
- Barbara J. Griffin State representative from Goffstown, current member and former chair of House Election Law Committee.
- Katherine M. Hanna Former legal counsel to Governor John Lynch, involved in many election legal matters and former state representative from Keene.
- Kathy L. Seaver Farmington Town Clerk for 41 years, past President, New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association 2008-2009.
- Tom Sherman, MD State senator from seacoast – District 24, resident of Rye. He is vice chair of the senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee, and a former two-term member of the New Hampshire House.
- Eugene Van Loan III Alternate member, state Ballot Law Commission. He is former moderator of the town of Bedford, and served as legal counsel to Congressman Louis C. Wyman during the closest U.S. senate election in American history (two votes) 1974-1975.
We are working to assemble contact information for these members, and will create sample letters for your guidance. These are the issues we want you to ask for:
No voter should have to make a choice between their health and exercising their right to vote
So far we've only seen a bending of existing rules. In a recent EES committe meeting, Dep. Sec. of State Dave Scanlan indicated that the Governor may be preparing an executive order to bend even more rules. We need a comprehensive plan for preparing voting during the pandemic:
For Cities and Towns -
- Guidance for preparing in-person polling places - Protection for poll workers and voters, physical distancing guidelines, facility readiness, additional equipment needed, ballot logistics
- Clear and simple rules for voters choosing to vote absentee using the "physical disability" excuse, and those who need to register to vote or change a registration.
- Dissemination of this information to town clerks, moderators
- Elimination of red tape needed to register to vote or obtain a absentee ballot to streamline the process for both clerks and voters
- Consider an online voter registration system used by 40 other states around the country
- Towns & Cities should not have to bear the matching funds the state requested
For Voters -
- Clear and simple rules for voters on the use of absentee ballots for those who fear Covid 19
- Clear and simple rules for registering by mail using the physical disability excuse
- Streamline the absentee ballot and voter registration process.
- Education of those voters through a robust public information campaign, so that all voters know how to register to vote, request a ballot, and fill out an return the ballot
|Bradford E. Cook , Chair
1000 Elm Street,
PO Box 3701,
Manchester, NH 03105-3701
|Eugene Van Loan, Member
50 Pheasant Run Bedford NH 03110-5604
Kathy Seaver, Member
|Katherine M. Hanna, Member
1000 Elm Street, PO Box 3701,
Manchester, NH 03105-3701
|Rep. Barbara Griffin, Member
84 Merrill Road,
Goffstown, NH 03045-2138
|Sen. Tom Sherman, Member
296 Harbor Road,
Rye, NH 03870
|Dep. Sec. Of State David Scanlan
Office of the Secretary of State
State House, Room 204
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
|Asst. AG Nick Chong Yen
NH Department of Justice
Election Law Div.
33 Capitol Street,
Concord, NH 03301
Guidance for Town Clerks, Moderators & Supervisors of Covid 19 Voting Issues - Updated on April 29, 2020
Our efforts to contact town and city clerks created a stir in the past two weeks. From your contacts, we received reports that clerks, moderators, supervisors of the checklist had received little guidance from the SOS's office on election preparation, they did not know about the $3.2 million in CARES money, and weren't aware of the SOS comments on registering to vote by mail for Covid 19-concerned voters. We are already in contact with the Select Committee on 2020 Emergency Election Support, urging them to recommend simple, clear guidance to towns and cities.
Now that federal money is procured, it's important that their voices are heard by the Emergency Election Support committee:
- Clear and simple guidance on who can use absentee ballots (SOS comments have been incomplete and sometimes contradictory)
- Clear and simple guidance on who can use mail-in registration to vote, what form(s) to use, and how voters should present their documents & ID (PDF, paper copies, etc)
- How red tape can be cut to accommodate the volume of voters wishing to vote by absentee
- What education efforts will be done by the SOS office to inform voters of their options
- How polling places should be prepared, maintained, physical distrancing, masks, what extra equipment is needed, etc
- What money your town or city needs to make the changes necessary
We could use your help in writing to your town clerk using the sample letter below. It's OK this time to cut and paste this, then customize it for your town or city. The goal is to get your town clerk to contact the Secretary of State and tell him that his guidance, planning and money is urgently needed for cities and towns, and why have sensible measures like mail-in or online registration not been implemented for everyone, not just those concerned with Covid 19.
Bending the Existing Rules for Absentee Ballots - but skirted No-Excuse (Letters /Postcards to Governor, SOS)
In early April, Secretary of State Bill Gardner and AG Gordon MacDonald issued guidance to Town Clerks that anyone voting in the remainder of 2020 could receive an absentee ballot to vote. But instead of offering a No-Excuse Absentee Ballot like many states have, they bent the "physical disability" exuse in the existing statute to include those who fear voting in person, and gave themselves lots of wiggle room. As one of our colleagues said, "It was the LEAST they could do."
Further, the SOS office had made comments that vote-by-mail ballots depress voter participation. That is NOT TRUE. In states with all vote-by-mail elections, turnout increases 10% in their experience. There is also a discussion about the high fraud rates with mail-in ballots. This has not been the experience with other states, and safeguards are in place for those ballots, like dual signatures.
Key Addresses You'll Need
Governor Christopher Sununu
Office of the Governor
Sec. William M. Gardner
State House, Room 204
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald
New Hampshire Department of Justice
email@example.com (writing a postal letter or postcard is more powerful)
NH State Senators (Open Democracy Action's Senate Contact Tool)
NH State House Representatives (NH GenCourt Web site)
No Accessibility for Voter Registration - A Violation of NH's Constitution (Letters/Postcards to Governor, SOS, AG)
Voter registration, which currently in NH must be done in person, either at town hall or at the polling place. Right now town halls are either closed to the public or closed altogether. Ask NH officials to create alternatives, such as online voter registration. NH is the ONLY STATE IN THE U.S. not to have some form of mail-in or online registration!
NH Constitution, Part 1, Article 11: "Voting registration and polling places shall be easily accessible to all persons including disabled and elderly persons who are otherwise qualified to vote in the choice of any officer or officers to be elected or upon any question submitted at such election."
Updated on April 29, 2020
$3.2 Million is Available to Help NH Cities and Towns Prepare for Voting -- Money has been Received by the State; Six-person commission will make recommendations (Letters/Postcards to Governor, SOS, and Legislature)
The State of NH now has possession of money from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the $3.2 million federal election grant (CARES Act), part of the recent stimulus package. The Secretary of State has appointed a six-person Select Committee on 2020 Emergency Election Support panel, (with no active town or city clerks, and no people of color) which has been tasked with making recommendations for election preparations, and how this money will be spent. The text of this announcement is here.
- Education & Talking Points
- Sample Letters - Governor & Secretary of State - Please Use the CAREs Act & HAVA Money for Improvements
- Sample Letter - NH State Reps and Senators
- Sample Postcards
No Guidance for Conducting In-Person Elections (Letters/Postcards to Governor & SOS)
We're very concerned for our town officials, who have received neither education nor funds to prepare their town elections as early as this spring for some town elections, or September and November for state primary and the state and national general election. The Brennan Center has issued guidelines which Open Democracy Action sent directly to the Secretary of State's office, but still there has been no guidance issued to town clerks, with local town meetings still pending for some towns. As noted above, there is money available, but the Governor and Secretary of State so far have refused to tap into these resources.
From our friends at Kent Street:
"There are two broad objectives that NH needs to meet before the fall elections: 1) Expanded absentee voter registration and absentee voting, and 2) Measures to assure health and safety for voters and poll workers during in-person voting. To accomplish these goals, the state needs to accomplish the following:
— Allow any NH voter to vote by mail without excuse.
— Create a statewide absentee ballot application website.
— Cut the red tape on returning absentee ballots.
— Establish secure, monitored public places for returning absentee ballots.
— Appropriate state funds for supplies and public education.
— Establish online voter registration.
— Allow voter registration by mail.
— Establish Election Day protocols to protect voters and election officials during in-person voting."