(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 to vote by absentee, and has been painfully slow to protect poll workers and in-person 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 Sept. 23, 2020 -
Actions for the Week of Sept 24-29
Action #1 - Write an LTE "Why you should request and return your absentee ballot EARLY" Sample LTEs
Absentee ballots will be distributed to voters within the next two weeks for most towns. We need to encourage those who have not yet requested their ballots to do so, and have them return those ballots IMMEDIATELY when they get them, for the benefit of our postal workers and our poll workers.
Action #2 - Contact your clerk with the "model" absentee ballot package contents
Thanks to your work in July & August, we identified inconsistencies with what voters received for absentee ballot packages. On Tuesday, we issued a memo to the SOS, asking for a statewide communication to clerks to make sure that ballot packages were consistent from city to city. But we're also going to work the clerk's side of this, to make sure they have the information they need.
Here's a sample email with links the necessary documents to aid the clerks in providing consistent information. You may copy and paste this letter, but I urge you to personalize it to encourage a relationship with the clerks, and make sure to THANK them for all their hard work.
Bonus Action - Twitter Users - "#AskAboutDemocracy Tweet storm
The first presidential debate is coming up next week and it’s critical that the debate moderator, Chris Wallace, and his team at Fox News hear from activists and voters that he needs to ask the candidates about democracy and their plans. Wallace already announced the topics of the first presidential debate and “the Supreme Court” and “integrity of the election” are among them.
Join us for a tweetstorm on Thursday, September 24th from 12-1pm ET/9-10am PT and make your voice heard! RSVP "yes" if you plan to participate.
A tweetstorm toolkit with sample tweets and graphics is available. As of this writing, there are no graphics yet, but we expect them soon.
Actions for the Week of Sept 16 - 22
Action #1 - Write a letter to the Governor, asking for a Mask policy for the General Election. Sample letters
The Governor has been walking a political tight rope for the last several weeks, not wanting to offend Trump Republicans on the mask-wearing question. We may have an opportunity now that he's won the primary to convince him to implement a mask policy statewide.
- Depending on the town, several hundred to several thousand may go through a single polling place.
- Some polling places didn't require masks on Sept. 8, much to the surprise of the voters arriving to cast their votes
- Derry's moderator and several poll workers were unmasked.
- Not having a mask policy may cause poll workers to bail out for November for fear of their health.
- While not having a 100 unmasked people in one place is banned by executive order, it may be hundreds passing through during a short period of time.
- Safety for our citizens should be our #1 priority.
- Not having masks may keep people away from the polls -- both Republicans and Democrats!
Action #2 - Write a letter to the SOS and Dep SOS, asking for additional training to avoid some of the mistakes made before and during the primary. Sample letters
While the primary went relatively well, there were some problems. The thread between those problems, before and during the primary, was training. It was clear that many current election workers knew the rules or rule changes, and that new poll workers got little if any training before election day. Training came out late, the election manuals came out late, and guidance came out to the clerks, moderators and supervisors in a piecemeal way. We're going to write to the SOS and Dep. SOS, and ask for more training, and more comprehensive training. Doing so would prevent some of the issues we saw:
- No consistency with Absentee Ballot package contents
- Out-of-date instructions & forms sent with absentee ballots
- Affiliation change postcards which needed to be witnessed had no place for a second signature.
- A town that turned away absentee ballots at the polling place and made those people vote in person
- A town that kept taking absentee ballots until 7 p.m. (the deadline is before 5 p.m.)
- A town that forgot to hold its Supervisors meeting prior to the election
- Towns that didn't know they needed to be open 3-5 on Labor Day
- Inaccurate. out-of-date information on the town website, or no information at all
The clerks are doing amazing work, but they have to be trained properly. We're asking for mandatory, properly noticed training for ALL poll workers to be conducted after the SOS after-action briefings, coming up next week. Just prior to the release of the absentee ballots would be ideal.
Action #3 - Next Tuesday, Sept. 22 - National Voter Registration Day!
Next Tuesday, September 22 is National Voter Registration Day. We should all be doing everything we can on that day and during the entire week to reach out to our members by email, text and social media to make sure they are registered and that their registration is up to date. Here's a sample email and some graphics. 1) Contact your clerk. Perhaps the town wants to send something out on a town mailing list. 2) Post to your social media, and ask your friends to repost it.
Bonus Action - Contact your local faith leaders and invite them to the NH Council of Churches Safe Voting training on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 5 p.m., with Brian and representatives from other organizing groups working with churches & synagogues.
Contact your local clergy member and interested lay leaders to learn about safe voting, and be able to communicate the basics to others. We know that faith leaders have contact with many members who might not be able to vote on their own, or who might need additional information and forms. Other participants from Interfaith Power & Light, a faith-based climate organizing group, and Granite State Organizing Project. Use this link to send to faith leaders: https://nhchurches.org/vote2020/ On Oct. 6 at 6:30, a statewide Zoom discussion for church members will be held as well. Details on a future action for that.
Bonus Action -
Actions for the Week of Sept 9 - 15
Action #1 - Call (or write if you do it ASAP) your state reps and senator to override the vetoes on HB 1665, HB 1672 and SB 7
Three bills Open Democracy Action and its allies supported were vetoed this year. We're not going to kid you; based on our experience, these are unlikely to be overridden. However, it is important that we make known how unhappy we are with the governor's veto, and with those legislators who voted against legislation widely supported by voters.
HB 1665 is the 2020 proposal for an advisory independent redistricting commission, which passed with bipartisan votes in the House and Senate. It addressed any Constitutional concerns of the legislature and Governor, yet got vetoed. The legislature had full authority to amend the bill, the process would be all in the open - not behind closed doors, and would give no advantage to the party in charge, benefiting both parties in the long run.
HB 1672 is the amended omnibus voting support bill authored by Sen. Melanie Levesque, which among several other reforms, would have added an online voter registration portal. Such an improvement would have made voter registration easier for every clerk's office around the state, saving them time and saving taxpayer money. The bill also proposed:
- Allowing Clerks more time to process absentee ballots prior to the election, which is now clearly evident would have helped for the 2020 General Election. Instead, already in the primary, clerks were working long hours trying to keep up.
- Streamlining the absentee ballot process, which caused so much confusion in weeks before the Sept. 8 primary.
- Participating in the Electronic Registration Information Center, to check with other states to avoid cross-state registrations.
SB 7 - SMART ACT would enable voters to automatically update their voter registration information (change of address) when obtaining or renewing a driver's license or doing other business with the NHDMV. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 18 states have some form of "Automatic Voter Registration," including our surrounding states of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Here's a great article if you'd like to know how it works.
Actions for the Week of Sept 2 - 8
Action #1 - ASAP - Get out the vote!
Our phone banking shows that there are many voters who are still uninformed and need encouragement to vote in the primary. AND getting voters engaged for the primary will also keep them engaged for the general Your task is to encourage your community to vote through any means necessary:
- Social media posts
- Phone calls
- Email lists
Make them personal: Why do YOU vote? What's at stake in the election, both for you personally, as well as your community? Why should you turn out if you only care about the national election?
Then send them to the clerk for "instant absentee" Thurs, Fri, maybe Saturday, or Monday 3-5, OR vote in person at the polls on Tuesday.
Social media copy:
It's late, but you can still vote on Sept. 8! Here are your options:
- If you have your absentee ballot, bring it directly to your town or city clerk, OR bring it directly to your polling place on election day up before 5 p.m.
- "Instant Absentee" If you haven't requested your absentee ballot for Sept. 8, your only option Sept 2-4 is to go directly to your clerk's office. Bring in a completed absentee ballot application (SOS.NH.GOV), wait to receive your ballot, fill it out, and return it to the clerk in one visit. Clerk's office will be open on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 3 to 5 p.m. Check your clerk's hours.
- Vote in person on September 8. Vote early, wear a mask, remember your ID, bring a black pen and sanitizer. Expect lines and different polling place layouts, so be patient and be courteous to election workers.
For any questions about voting, your first stop is always your town or city clerk's office!
Action #2 - This week - Be an observer at the outer envelope opening of the Absentee Ballot session
Election workers will begin to open the OUTER envelopes of absentee ballots beginning Thursday in the days prior to the election. This pre-processing will allow election officials get a jump on the election day counting by verifying that the absentee voters are registered and that the affidavit envelope is properly signed. If there are problems, clerks can contact the voter to "cure" the problems prior the the election, and the ballot is not invalidated.
We want to deploy observers to this process to make sure that if a ballot is invalidated that it is for the right reasons. 1) ASAP, find out when your town is opening the outer envelopes, likely the last Supervisor of the Checklist meeting prior to the election. 2) Ask to attend the meeting armed with the list below. We'll give you a crash course in your team meeting on what to look for -- and defend -- in case they don't know the rules.
Actions for the Week of Aug 26 - Sept 1
Action #1 - ASAP - Action from the NH Coalition for Voting Rights - Make a video: "Why I am voting/voted absentee"
We're in the last few days to possibly vote by absentee. For those who are able to make a video with their phone or computer, we would like you to make an appeal to your friends and community to return their ballots and to vote safely. We have some sample scripts for you to use/modify.
Your research last week indicated that:
- If you bring your ballot to the customer service desk at the Post Office, it will be hand cancelled and stay in town
- If you drop your ballot in an "Local Mail" slot, it will likely be hand cancelled and stay in town.
- If you drop your ballot in a blue USPS collection box, it will be sent to a sorting center first, taking an extra day or two of time.
You may also:
- Give your ballot to a person at the town clerk's office. Check hours and make an appointment if necessary.
- Or bring your ballot to your polling place on election day before 5 p.m.
- Or vote in person, wearing a mask, on election day.
Communicate this information to folks in your town by whatever means you can: Email, Facebook, Facebook Groups, Town email lists.
Action #3 - Help Upper Valley Team member Susan Kaplan's webinar by letting your local businesses know about it.
Our Upper Valley Team member, Susan Kaplan, created a Business Tool Kit for the NH Businesses for Social Responsibility and is conducting a webinar on Sept. 2, 1-1:30 to encourage businesses to help their employees to vote safely. Send businesses in your orbit to their voting page at https://nhbsr.org/votesafenh for information, the toolkit and a link to their webinar registration.
Bonus Action - Contact your moderator - What's your mask policy for election day?
The Secretary of State recently allowed moderators to make the decision on whether masks must be worn in the polling place. Your bonus action will be to ask your moderator what your town's policy will be, and help communicate that to your community.
Actions for the Week of Aug 19 - Aug 25
Action 1 - Talk with your Postmaster
As of Aug. 18, the Postmaster General says he is suspending suppressive policies, but it is not clear whether the postal boxes or sorting machines will be reinstalled. Your mission this week is to speak with your local postmaster and ask these questions:
- Will you be hand cancelling ballots addressed to municipalities in this Zip Code, so that ballots aren't being sent to Manchester?
- If you put mail into the blue postal drop boxes, does that mail automatically get shipped to the sorting center? And if someone brings their ballot to the post office window, will that be kept in town, or sent to the sorting center?
- Have you spoken with the town or city clerk/moderator to coordinate delivery of election day ballots before 5 p.m.?
- Will you be delivering ballots which are postage due without delay?
- Would you consider posting a sign for postal patrons giving direction on absentee ballots?
- Will you please thank all of your USPS employees for their service to our community, state & country? Maybe bring them some prepackaged treats!
When you've made contact, report back to share what you've learned on this Google form.
Find out your post office's number: https://postofficeshours.com/nh/
Action 2 - On Social Media/Email/Email Lists/Groups, remind voters to have their absentee ballot mailed by Aug. 24.
Aug 25 and after, bring your ballot directly to the town/city clerk and hand it to them. The graphic to use is at right. Here's some
sample copy, which is OK to cut and paste:
Have you planned how you're going to vote safely on September 8 in NH's state primary? You have options if you act quickly.
If you have had an absentee ballot sent to you already -- Mail it back by Monday, August 24 to allow for slower postal delivery and processing by your town clerk.
If you have not requested your absentee ballot, download it https://sos.nh.gov/media/rs0ly4xu/absentee-ballot-app-8-20-covid.pdf and hand-deliver the application to your town clerk. When you hand it in, consider asking for the ballot at that time to fill it out and turn it back in. Check your town clerk's hours.
For you last-minute folks: This year only, you CAN return your ballot to your polling place yourself ON election day. Usually you cannot. Clerks offices will be open on Sept. 7, Labor Day for limited hours the day before, but check for hour. OR you can stop procrastinating return it in person now!
If you haven't registered to vote, there's still time, but do this in person at the town clerk's office, or in person at the polls on election day. You'll need and ID and proof of your "domicile." Call your clerk for details.
If you aren't able to take those steps, vote in person on September 8, wear a mask, and sanitize before you go in and out.
No matter how you vote, VOTE! Your vote is your voice, and you need to use it!
THIS HAS BEEN POSTED ON FACEBOOK IN OPEN DEMOCRACY ACTION AND NH REBELLION FOR YOU TO FORWARD
Not a Facebook or Twitter user? Send this out via email AND/OR call 10 friends and remind them on what options they have to get their ballots in!
Actions for the Week of Aug 12 - Aug 18
The Return Rate for Absentee Ballots is LOW. We are encouraging voters to return their ballots.
Action 1: Write an LTE - The Election is three weeks out - Send back your ballots
We've included some instructions on the affidavit/physical disability issue, and also referenced the return postage amount.
Action 2: Urgent "Time is Running Out" messages
Please share our Time is Running Out post on your social media (posted to Open Democracy Action & NH Rebelllion FB & Twitter today) Also post to email lists and other community channels, like community Facebook groups. Another round of personal videos are good, too, since they were so successful last month.
Action 3: PSAs on Social media
Due to the great work of Janet Ward and Brad Cook, there are some great PSA's recorded and running now about options, including absentee, for voting this fall. Please SHARE them in your social media.
Judd Gregg & John Lynch: https://video.nhpbs.org/video/nh-votes-safe-judd-gregg-and-john-lynch-0ehx84/
Jon Cannon, host of Granite State Challenge https://video.nhpbs.org/video/nh-votes-safe-jon-cannon-isqgxe/ 40-second version
Jon Cannon, https://video.nhpbs.org/video/nh-votes-safe-jon-cannon-mt0itn/ 20-second version
Actions for the Week of Aug 5 - Aug 11
Action 1: Send pictures of your absentee ballot packages to the SOS, asking why you didn't receive information on voting during COVID-19.
If you have received your absentee ballot package, last week, we asked you so send us a picture of what you received. What we saw was disturbing. Some of you received no instructions at all, COVID or standard instructions. Some received the standard instructions with no COVID info, some received a combination of materials, including some written by the clerks, not the SOS. This is a serious mistake that could result in a challenge of equal access to the polls.
Your first action is to send a picture of your package to SOS Bill Gardner himself, as well as to the elections office, and CC the newspaper in your town.
1) If you didn't receive any instructions, here's a sample email.
2) If you received standard instructions, but not the modified standard instructions with the COVID info, here's a sample email.
3) If you didn't receive standard instructions, but alternative instructions from the clerk, here's a sample email.
Secretary of State: email@example.com
Dep. Secretary of State: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your local paper: Look up their website, and send to an email like email@example.com
Action 2: Visit your town's website, and the websites of adjacent towns. Is the COVID Voting info correct?
Bill Pagum, a volunteer from the Seacoast, graciously donated his time to compile a list of towns with problems. We're dispatching you to see the extent of those problems so we might assist towns in fixing them. During the meeting, we'll give specific town assignments to you. The Google Sheet lists the problem(s), and we need you to verify, then call the clerk if you have a relationship, or otherwise the MODERATOR and point out to them what needs to be fixed.
- Does the town have special instructions for COVID-19 Voting on its website?
- Make sure the links work!! (SOS site was just redone - old links don't work!)
- Is the absentee ballot application the OLD ONE or the NEW ONE?
- Do they supply the instructions? If so, are they using the updated standard instructions (above) with the COVID-19 guidance?
If you have a conversation with either the clerk or the moderator, please add notes to the Google sheet so we know what's happening there and don't bother them further.
Actions for the Week of July 28 - Aug 4
Action 1: Warn your friends & neighbors about the SOS absentee application & absentee ballot obstacles
As absentee ballots have begun being sent by clerks, and the SOS has begun -- finally -- to reach out to the press, it is apparent that every concern we had on the oddities of the application's struck-out language, and the absentee ballot package's inner affidavit and out-of-date instructions have been realized. We need to inform the public about these three barriers to boost the confidence of voters in the process:
1) Struck Out Language The struck out language on the application has voters asking, "Did I download the right form?" and "Did the SOS post the wrong form?" "Why is this information there? It looks like it wasn't supposed to be there!" Tell voters to ignore the struck-out language on the newest absentee ballot application. That information no longer applies, and we're working to have it removed before November. We need to tell voters to ignore this.
2) Instruction Sheet Problems When you receive your absentee ballot (many already have) the one-page instruction sheet which normally accompanies the ballot. This instruction sheet DOES NOT address instructions for concern with COVID-19 voters. There is a special COVID-19 Absentee Ballot instruction sheet which we understand is not being distributed as it should be, but is available on the SOS website. We need to point people to the special COVID-19 Absentee Ballot instruction sheet.
3) No COVID-19 Option on Affidavit Envelope When you get your absentee ballot package, you get an outer envelope and an inner affidavit envelope. The affidavit envelope (below) does not reference COVID-19. We've been fielding calls the last couple of days with confusion -- and disbelief that the SOS didn't address this. The special COVID-19 Absentee Ballot instruction sheet referenced above doesn't do a good job of explaining it, either. We need to assure voters that the SOS and AG have said it's OK for voters to declare that they are "disabled" and sign the Religious Observance/Physical Disability side of the affidavit envelope.
Action 2: Before Friday, Send an Email to Governor Sununu on HB 1665
As of Tuesday afternoon, Governor Sununu has the independent redistricting commission bill on his desk. It's unlikely he'll sign it, bu we're making one last push.
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)
Actions for the Week of July 22- July 28
Action 1: LTEs & Social Media on Your Story on Why You are Voting Absentee and How
Our NH Voting Rights Coalition partners have ask us to do another round of Letters to the Editor, this time telling your personal story on why you're voting by absentee, and mentioned that there is a new form to use which makes it easier to do. Typically, the limit is 250 - 350 words, but check with the LTE guide at NH Sierra Club for more information. We've written three sample LTEs, but feel free to send your own message.
Action 2: Call your clerk to make sure they've updated the town website with the new form link
With the new Absentee Ballot application now available, we need you to follow up your area town clerks to make sure they update their town websites with the new link, http://sos.nh.gov/AbsBallotAppCOVID.aspx Our suggestion is to send your clerk an email, then follow up by phone to make sure they've seen it, and underscore how important it is to get this up quickly, as we are supporting this with letters to the editor in the local papers and on social media.
Email to Clerk (OK to cut and paste this one)
Write Assistant Attorney General Nick Chong Yen on your thoughts on the absentee ballot affidavit envelope (must declare yourself "disabled" for COVID-19), and the inclusion of the confusing and moot "struck out" language on the back of the latest version of the Absentee Ballot Application. Way to confuse the voters, State of NH!
Asst. AG Nick Chong Yen
NH Department of Justice
Election Law Div.
33 Capitol Street,
Concord, NH 03301
Sec. William M. Gardner,
Office of the Secretary of State
State House, Room 204
107 North Main Street Concord, NH 03301
Actions for the Week of July 15 - July 21
Help Recruit Ballot Inspectors and other Poll Workers
I know you're fingers are raw from all that typing last week, and your computer is SMOKIN'! So we're giving you a break from writing, but have important task, nonetheless. As we've been telling you in team meetings, a shortage of poll workers caused a reduction of polling places in other states, and that spelled disaster in Milwaukee, Las Vegas and other locations. News reports have suggested that Lebanon is considering such a move.
Our job this week is to reach out into your community using your social media, town facebook groups, town email lists and whereever else you can think of, to promote becoming a poll worker. We've created a graphic and a message to share below. Right click and Save Image, or go to Open Democracy Action on Facebook to share ours.
Message: Towns around New Hampshire are in need of ballot poll workers for the Sept. 8 state primary, and the Nov. 3 general elections. Many of our older poll workers are at higher risk, and have wisely chosen to step back and let younger, healthier patriots step up. Can you do your civic duty and help? To become a "ballot inspector," speak with your local Democratic or Republican town committee. To help out with greeting & assisting voters, or helping to keep the polling place sanitized, shortages vary from town to town and ward to ward, so speak to your local town clerk or moderator to see how you can best help.
Action 2: Invite 10 people to the two Democracy Town Hall Events with Feltes and Volinsky
Our Gubernatorial Democracy Town Hall Series starts this Sunday at 7 p.m., with Senator Dan Feltes (RSVP LINK) This is a one-hour moderated discussion by Zoom that Open Democracy Action hosts with support from Equal Citizens, NH Ranked Choice Voting, NH Independent Voters, NH Voters Restoring Democracy, American Promise, Stamp Stampede, and other NH democracy groups. This is your opportunity to ask the candidate a question about some of the things we've been working on, like online voter registration, voter suppression and redistricting.
Then on Tuesday, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky will participate in his DTHS event at 7 p.m. The conversation with Councilor Volinsky will be the same format and many of the same questions, and with the same 30 minutes of questions from you.
FYI, all Republican candidates, including Governor Chris Sununu have been invited for their Democracy Town Halls, but they have not yet confirmed.
We'd also like you to please ask 10 friends to attend the Democracy Town Hall events using these links:
Exec. Councilor Andru Volinsky: https://www.opendemocracyaction.org/gubernatorial_town_hall_with_andru_volinsky
And post to your social media, and on town Facebook groups and other groups to which you belong.
Message to cut and paste, or you can do your own: You are invited to attend two upcoming Democracy Town Hall Series events with candidates for Governor, Senator Dan Feltes, and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. Senator Feltes will be joining by Zoom this Sunday night, July 19 at 7 pm. RSVP here: https://www.opendemocracyaction.org/gubernatorial_town_hall_with_dan_feltes
For Executive Councilor Volinsky, he will join us by Zoom on Tuesday night, July 21 at 7 p.m. RSVP here: https://www.opendemocracyaction.org/gubernatorial_town_hall_with_andru_volinsky
For both meetings, you can submit a Democracy question for the candidates in advance, the link for which will be in your confirmation email. This would include questions on gerrymandering, voter suppression and expanding voting rights, modernizing NH's election system, banning corporate campaign donations, demanding transparency in campaign spending and other democracy reforms which will help return power to the people, not the special interests and big campaign donors.
Thanks, and I'll see you at the Democracy Town Halls!
Actions for the Week of July 8 - July 14
Action 1: Continued Pressure on the Secretary of State & Dep. Sec. of State -- Where's the plan?
We now have eight weeks until the September 8 state primary. Secretary Gardner, are we prepared? A letter on Monday to town and city election workers indicated what PPE would be supplied to towns, but no logistics on how it was to be delivered, or when. And only a handful of his Select Committee's recommendations have been implemented. If there is a plan, it hasn't been communicated to the voters. We need assurances that the planning has been done and there won't be a fiasco like other states have had. Have we mentioned that we're eight week's out?
This week, we again write to the Secretary of State with our concerns over preparations for this fall's elections, and ask for public communication of the SOS office's plans for free, fair and inclusive elections.
Sec. William M. Gardner / Dep. Secretary David Scanlan
Office of the Secretary of State
State House, Room 204
107 North Main Street Concord, NH 03301
email@example.com (writing a postal letter or postcard is more powerful)
For those of you who know how to make a selfie video with your phone or computer, I'm asking you to put on your Ask Me About Absentee button and make a short video on why you think downloading a requesting your absentee ballot right now is a smart thing. Post it on your Facebook page and - important- ask your friends to share it!
Brian's sample video (Make sure to mention checking "disability"
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."