This story has been updated with additional information.
More than 330,000 surgical masks, 8,200 jugs of sanitizing wipes, 5,300 face shields and 3,200 sneeze guards are on their way to local pollworkers across New Hampshire in the coming weeks, according to a new memo from the Secretary of State's office.
(Scroll down or click here to explore a searchable database showing how much gear has been allocated to each polling place, according to the latest records from the Secretary of State's office.)
Election officials are encouraging voters to take advantage of New Hampshire's expanded absentee voting rules during the September 8 primary and November 3 general election, to prevent crowding and the potential spread of COVID-19 at polling places. Any eligible voter can cast an absentee ballot during New Hampshire's fall 2020 elections, according to guidance issued by state officials earlier this year.
In-person voting will still be available in all communities, and the Secretary of State's office has devoted some of the roughly $3.1 million in emergency election funding New Hampshire received from the federal goverment toward protective gear for voters and pollworkers during Election Day balloting.
The details of the state's plans to distribute polling place protective gear were outlined in a memo sent to local election officials over the weekend, which was shared with NHPR.
The update from the Secretary of State's office also included a detailed breakdown of how much each community is in line to receive. However, as a note attached to the update cautioned: “THE NUMBERS LISTED ARE APPROXIMATELY WHAT WILL BE ISSUED.”
“You will mostly get slightly more than the number listed, but in some cases may get slightly less,” state election officials told their local counterparts. “For example gloves that come in boxes of 100, if your allocation is 612, you may get just 600. If your allocation is 1197, you may get 1200. Gloves will come in different sizes; you will receive some in each size.”
In addition to traditional surgical masks and face shields, an estimated 16,000 KN95 masks are also among the supplies heading to local election officials for use in the fall elections. Just last week, however, State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan advised pollworkers against using that kind of mask.
Bud Fitch, the elections legal counsel for the Secretary of State’s office and a primary liaison for local pollworkers on COVID-19 planning, said his office ordered the masks and other protective gear based on the recommendations of the committee formed to advise the state on pandemic election planning earlier this year.
“I've heard personally from many local election officials that, notwithstanding that advice, want that higher level of protection to be available for them,” Fitch told pollworkers at the conclusion of the same call where Chan told them not to use KN95 masks. “And so there's some tension between the recommendations received, and we're trying to honor the requests that we have from local election officials.”
The New Hampshire Department of Homeland Security is handling delivery of the polling place protective gear on behalf of the Secretary of State's office. State election officials say they are still awaiting some of the items.
"At this time the state has received most, but not all the supplies," the Secretary of State's office wrote in its memo. "We are hopeful all will come in time for this distribution. If not, we will make alternative arrangements for any supplies receives by the State after the distribution."
According to the Secretary of State's office, the total supplies allocated to each town were calculated based on “the number of ballots cast (in person and absentee) in your town/ward at the 2016 state primary and the 2016 general election.”
“We adjusted that number to allow for an increased turnout in 2020 and to reflect the expected increase in absentee voting (voters who will not be coming to your polling place in-person),” the memo reads.
After this story was initially published, the Secretary of State's office shared additional information about the formulas used to calculate the PPE allocations for each community. You can take a closer look at their formulas here.
Explore the table below to find out more about the supplies allocated to each community.(Note: There are a lot of columns in this table, so for the best viewing experience we recommend clicking here to open it in a new window.)