2020 N.H. Primary Voter's Guide: What You Need to Know Before Casting Your Ballot | New Hampshire Public Radio

2020 N.H. Primary Voter's Guide: What You Need to Know Before Casting Your Ballot

Feb 9, 2020

The 2020 New Hampshire primary is Tuesday, Feb 11. Here's a primer on what you need to know before heading to the polls.

What's on the ballot?

You’ll only be able to vote for president, not any state or local office. This is a primary election to inform who the Democrats and Republicans nominate for the general election in November. A separate primary election for other state and federal races is scheduled for September.

What if my preferred candidate dropped out of the race? Can I still vote for them?

You can — and some candidates who are no longer in the race will be listed on the New Hampshire Democratic and Republican presidential primary ballots — but that vote will essentially be null at this point.

Can I vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary?

If you’re a registered Republican, you can only vote in the Republican primary. If you’re a registered Democrat, you can only vote in the Democratic primary. If you’re an undeclared (sometimes called an “independent”) voter, you can vote in either race. (See also: This explainer on New Hampshire’s party primary rules.) 

How can I check my party registration?

You can look it up on the Secretary of State’s website, or you can call your local clerk to ask for assistance. Every city and town is also required to have an up-to-date voter checklist posted publicly at city or town hall.

I'm a Democrat who wants to vote for a Republican, or a Republican who wants to vote for a Democrat. Is that allowed?

Not really. You can write in the name of any candidate on your ballot, but the two parties are essentially holding separate elections on Tuesday, so your vote for a Democrat on the Republican ballot (or vice versa) won’t count toward their overall vote total.

How do I vote?

You can vote in-person on Election Day or by absentee ballot, but you can only vote absentee if you meet certain requirements. (See below for more details on absentee voting.)

If you plan to vote in-person on Election Day, you can find your local polling place by following this link or consulting the map at the bottom of this post, which we created using data compiled by the New Hampshire Secretary of State. For more information about your local polling hours or locations, visit the New Hampshire Secretary of State's website, or contact your local clerk directly. 

Before you can vote, you first need to make sure you’re registered at your local polling place. If you’ve already registered and haven’t moved to a new address since then, you likely won’t have to re-register. But if you’re voting for the first time, voting in a new location, or have recently changed addresses, you will likely have to register or make sure your voter information is up-to-date. Again, you can check on your registration status on the Secretary of State’s website or with your local clerk.

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you may need to wait for Election Day to register or make any other updates. Many towns have a cutoff for voter registration in order to finalize checklists ahead of voting day. Consult with your town or city clerk to see when that deadline is, and if it has passed, you can plan to register at the polls on Feb. 11.

Can I vote absentee?

You can request an absentee ballot if you meet one of the following state-approved excuses:

  • You plan to be absent from the place where you vote on Election Day
  • You have a religious observance or commitment that conflicts with Election Day
  • You have a disability that makes it difficult for you to vote in-person on Election Day
  • You’re not able to make it to the polls on Election Day because of an “employment obligation,” which could include paid or unpaid work, as well as caregiving responsibilities
  • You’re a victim of domestic violence, have an active protective order, or are participating in the Attorney General’s address confidentiality program

Additionally, according to the state’s Election Procedure Manual, “if the National Weather Service issues a winter storm warning, blizzard warning, or ice storm warning for election day, then you may vote by absentee ballot on the Monday immediately before the election if you meet any of the following criteria: You are elderly, infirm, or have a physical disability, and you have concerns for your safety traveling in the storm; or you care for children or infirm adults and you reasonably anticipate that school, child care, or adult care will be canceled due to the storm, and you will be deterred from voting by the need to care for children or infirm adults.”

The state’s absentee rules are spelled out in more detail here.

What if I want to vote absentee but I haven't yet requested an absentee ballot? Is it too late?

No. Absentee ballots can be received up until 5 p.m. on Election Day. All local clerks are required to be open from 3 to 5 p.m. the day before an election to allow people to apply for and submit absentee ballots in-person.

According to the state’s Election Procedure Manual, “A qualified applicant who will be absent from his or her town/city on election day may, up until the day before the election, obtain the forms necessary for absentee voter registration and an absentee ballot from the clerk, complete the application forms, provide the required copies of evidence of qualifications, complete the absentee ballot and affidavit envelope, and return all to the clerk.”

Additionally, according to the state’s election manual, “If a voter, for example someone who planned to vote in person but was unexpectedly hospitalized on election day, requests delivery of an absentee ballot the town or city clerk may deputize someone from his or her office, or take an absentee ballot with the application and affidavit envelope to the person and then accept receipt of the completed absentee ballot package in person.”

I already sent in an absentee ballot. How can I make sure it's counted?

You can check the status of your absentee ballot on the Secretary of State’s website. Keep in mind, however, that absentee ballots are not processed until the day of the election.

What if I sent in an absentee ballot for one candidate but changed my mind about who I want to support. Can I switch my vote?

Yes, actually — but only if you show up to cast a new ballot before your original absentee ballot has been processed. Bud Fitch, an attorney for the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office, addressed this question at a recent training for local pollworkers.

“If you vote absentee and you want to vote in-person, your circumstances change, whatever,” Fitch said, “as long as you've been at the polls in person on Election Day before your absentee ballot is marked in the checklist, yes, you can. And that's absolutely permissible.”

Who can vote in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire voters must meet four basic requirements to cast a ballot here.

  • Age: You must be at least 18 years old at the time of the election.
  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Identity: You must be who you say you are when registering to vote.
  • Domicile/residence: You must live in New Hampshire and consider it your home for voting purposes. (Here’s what that means, according to the state: “When a person makes a town or ward in New Hampshire his or her principal place of physical presence to the exclusion of all other places, that person has established a domicile/residence.”)

Can college students vote in New Hampshire?

Yes. College students are allowed to vote in New Hampshire, even those who relocated here from another state for school, as long as they haven’t also voted in their home states during the same election. While there is a lot of attention on student voting in New Hampshire, there are no special voting restrictions that apply only to students.

Do I need to have a New Hampshire driver's license or car registration in order to vote here?

No. Neither of these things are required in order to cast a ballot in New Hampshire. For more details, see this memo from state election officials.

Do I need to get a New Hampshire driver's license or car registration after voting here?

It depends on your individual circumstances. According to the state, “Anyone registering to vote in New Hampshire is indicating that he or she has established a domicile/residence here. Once one establishes domicile/residence in New Hampshire, New Hampshire law requires that person to take certain actions. Under the motor vehicle code, a person has 60 days upon establishing domicile/residence to obtain a New Hampshire driver's license, if they drive here, and to register a vehicle, if they own a vehicle in the state.” The state provides additional guidance on voting and vehicle licensing here

Keep in mind that this issue is still being ironed out in court. For the time being, however, the important thing to know is that a New Hampshire driver's license and car registration is not required in order to vote here.

How do I prove citizenship when registering to vote?

You can sign a form at the polls confirming that you are a U.S. citizen who is eligible to vote. Or you can provide documentation in the form of a birth certificate, a U.S. passport, naturalization papers, or a record confirming that you are a U.S. citizen who was born abroad.

Keep in mind that a Real ID is not considered proof of citizenship under New Hampshire voting laws. According to the state, “While a United States Citizen applying for a REAL ID compliant license must prove United States Citizenship, federal law requires New Hampshire to also issue REAL ID compliant driver's licenses and non-driver IDs to people who are not United States Citizens, but who are legally present in the United States. The REAL ID license held by a permanent resident alien (green card holder) or a visa holder looks the same as a REAL ID held by a United States Citizen.”

Do I need to bring anything to the polls?

If you want to simplify your registration and voting experience as much as possible, the answer is yes. But according to state election officials, no voter should be turned away from the polls because they lack the right documents

What you should try to bring depends on whether you still need to register to vote or whether you're already registered. If you need to register to vote or update your registration, you'll need to bring documents that prove you meet the age, citizenship, identity and domicile requirements outlined above.

If you're already registered to vote, you'll still be asked to present a valid photo ID in order to vote in New Hampshire. If you don't have a photo ID, you'll need to sign what is called a "challenged voter affidavit." That's a legal form swearing that you are who you say you are. Click here for more details on the state's voter ID law.

In some cases, you might be able to use one document — like a New Hampshire driver's license with your current address — to prove several different eligibility requirements. The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office has also instructed pollworkers that electronic documents, not just printed copies, are acceptable.

The chart below (adapted from documents produced by the New Hampshire Secretary of State) spells out what kinds of documents you can use to prove your voting eligibility. Please keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list, and local election officials can decide to accept additional forms of documentation not included here.

If the chart isn't showing up below or is difficult to read on this page, you can also see it by clicking here

(Keep scrolling! This guide continues below.) 

What if I don't have the right documents when I show up to vote?

If you believe you still meet the legal requirements to vote in New Hampshire, you can cast a ballot on Election Day if you sign a form confirming that you are who you say you are and you meet the qualifications to participate in New Hampshire elections. If you complete one of those forms, state officials will still likely follow up after the election to confirm your eligibility.

Can I vote if I have a criminal record?

If you have been convicted of a felony but have been released from prison, you are eligible to vote. Under a relatively new law, in fact, correctional facilities in New Hampshire are supposed to “provide [an] offender written notice that he or she may vote during the period of the suspension or parole” upon release from incarceration.

Additionally, “people confined in a penal institution in pre-trial detention or as a result of a conviction for a misdemeanor retain the right to vote,” according to the state’s election procedure manual. “Most people sentenced to County Corrections fall in this category,” the manual reads. “Their domicile for voting purposes is the town or city where they had their domicile immediately prior to being confined. Persons confined in a penal institution must vote by absentee ballot.”

I need to request voting accommodations due to illness or disability. What are my options?

New Hampshire polling places are required to meet accessibility standards set by federal law, including accessible parking and entryway provisions. Each polling place should offer accessible voting equipment meant to allow all voters to cast a ballot privately and independently, even if they have vision loss or other conditions that might make traditional balloting challenging. Voters also have the option of asking someone to assist them with completing their ballot, but that assistant is not supposed to influence the voter’s choice.

For additional information, the Disability Rights Center-NH's voting rights guide is a useful resource. The Disability Rights Center-NH's also says voters can contact them for assistance if they have trouble accessing their voting location or think their voting rights are being violated. 

How can transgender or gender non-conforming voters make sure they don't run into issues at the polls?

The ACLU of New Hampshire put together a fact sheet for transgender and gender non-conforming voters that addresses questions about photo ID requirements and more. If you have legally changed your name, you will need to re-register to vote, and the ACLU of New Hampshire's fact sheet has more details on that process.

The important thing to know is that no eligible voter should be denied their right to vote because of their gender identity.

I've been hearing about changes to New Hampshire's voter registration and residency laws. What should I know about those?

There are two laws that you’ve likely heard the most about over the past few years: One of those laws altered the voter registration process and the procedures for proving you live where you’re trying to vote; the other altered the definition of what it means to be a New Hampshire resident. Both laws are currently being challenged in court, but we have tried to incorporate the most up-to-date information about the new rules into this guide.

What if I still have more questions about voting, or what if I run into problems on Election Day?

If you have questions about the voting process, you can ask your local election officials or the Secretary of State's office, at 603-271-3242.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office will also be operating an Election Day hotline from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Feb. 11. Voters can call into that hotline with questions or concerns at 1-866-868-3703 (1-866-VOTER03). If no one picks up, callers should leave a voicemail; the state says "attorneys in the office will address each message received." Questions and complaints can also be emailed to electionlaw@doj.nh.gov.

The U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire will also be operating an election hotline from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Primary Day, reachable at 603-230-2503. Questions or complaints can also be shared with the U.S. Attorney's office via their website.

If you want to let us know about a voting problem for a potential news story, we also want to hear from you. You can email us at news@nhpr.org, but please keep in mind that this is only for reporting purposes. While we can try to investigate the situation for a possible news story, we are not able to act in any kind of enforcement capacity. If you are running into a serious problem at the polls, you should report it to state or federal authorities using the numbers above.

This voting guide has been updated from a previous version. If you think we made a mistake in any of the information above, please email news@nhpr.org to let us know.

Where is my polling place?

Don't see a map below? Follow this link.

Want more information about your municipality? Scroll through the list below, published by the New Hampshire Secretary of State's office.