The 2020 New Hampshire state primary election is underway today, and NHPR reporters and producers will be covering it live on this blog and on NHPR's airwaves.
Bookmark this blog for updates, photos, voter voices, and more.
CLICK HERE for real-time election results after the polls close and votes are counted.
NOTE: In-person voting is an option for any New Hampshire voter today. But voters who still want to cast an absentee ballot can do so any time before the polls close today - and that has not been made clear on some municipal websites. CLICK HERE for more information and guidelines.
ELECTION DAY RESOURCES:
- Visit NHPR's COVID-19 Voting Guide if you have questions about how the state primary process will work amid the coronavirus pandemic. NHPR's election coverage story dashboard is here.
- Do you know where your polling place is? The state has this handy polling place search feature
- The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office has activated its election day hotline: (866) 868-3703. The Secretary of State's Office election day hotline is (833) 726-0034.
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Update: 4:40 p.m.
New procedures, new volunteers in Hanover
Like towns across the state, Hanover has several safety precautions in place as voters head to the polls in today’s state primary. Those include plexiglass at check-in, socially distanced booths, and a temperature check at the door.
Gwen Wittenmaker, a Dartmouth College sophomore, says this year’s primary feels similar to previous New Hampshire elections.
“It’s like not a lot of people here, so it was easy to distance," she says.
Hanover moved its polling place from the high school to Dartmouth’s larger indoor track facility.
The town has received about 1,600 absentee ballots so far. About 800 absentee ballots were cast in the previous primary.
Jeremy Eggleton, Hanover’s town moderator, says Hanover was successfully able to recruit new poll workers for today. Volunteer poll work has typically been filled by older citizens, but many were concerned this year because of COVID-19.
Eggleton says the town made a deliberate effort to recruit people under 50 and young parents to staff the polling station. “We asked around to the different parent organizations, the different neighborhood associations,” he said.
The town got a huge response from the outreach. “So we’re really excited because it didn’t just solve a today problem. It seeded the future from our perspective.”
Eggleton said a new polling station greeter told him she loved what she was doing, and that “nobody ever asked me to do this before.”
“It was a lesson learned for us," he said. "You have to ask at the end of the day.”
- Daniela Allee
Update: 3:00 p.m.
In Stratham, lots of absentee voting, but not a lot of socializing
Officials in Stratham say there is steady turnout at the polls, along with a huge spike in absentee ballots. More than 1,100 absentee ballots have already been returned. Four years ago, that number was just 81.
Town Moderator Dave Emanuel says there’s also less opportunity to catch up with voters who do come in person.
“To not be able to shake someone's hand, and to honesty look in their eyes and say I’m glad to see you, it’s been a long time, or I haven’t seen you since the last election, I really miss the human component. Today’s been all business,” Emanuel says.
Most polling places have reconfigured entry and exit points to ensure adequate social distancing, and many towns have canceled traditional bake sales and other fundraisers held by local organizations at voting sites.
- Todd Bookman
Update: 2:15 p.m.
Police called after Portsmouth voter refuses to wear mask
Portsmouth election officials say they're doing their best to ensure safe voting for those who want to cast a ballot in-person. Bill McClure is a selectman in Portsmouth’s Ward 2. He greeted voters upon arrival at the middle school.
“This booth has multiple functions. We are really kind of the first line of saying hello," he said. "If you don’t have a mask, we offer you a mask. And if you choose not to have a mask, then we can arrange for you to vote outside.”
The polling location at Portsmouth High School had some controversy when one man refused to wear a mask. The Portsmouth Herald reports the police were called. The man ultimately was able to cast a ballot.
- Dan Tuohy
Update: 1:30 p.m.
Smooth going at Manchester ward
Producer Mary McIntyre stopped by Manchester's Ward 5, where officials report a higher turnout than normal so far compared to past primaries.
They also say voting has been going smoothly.
Update: 12:40 p.m.
Absentee ballots surge in Newmarket
At Ward 1 in Newmarket, voting is taking place in the basement of town hall.
According to local officials, 900 absentee ballots were cast in that town for this election, while just 45 were cast in the last state primary.
- Annie Ropeik
Update: 11:45 a.m.
A quiet start at Exeter polls
It’s quiet at the polls in Exeter this morning, with just under 400 votes cast by 10 a.m. Poll workers are busy, though, slicing open approximately 1,700 absentee ballots received so far. According to Town Moderator Paul Scafidi, there were just 450 or so absentee ballots received in the 2016 primary.
Inside the voting area, every other booth is blocked off to ensure social distancing, voters can keep their pens, and plexiglass separates poll workers from voters as they check-in. Voters who refuse to wear masks are being directed to a separate parking area, and will use separate voting booths.
- Todd Bookman
Update: 7:00 a.m.
The Primary Day polls are open
The 2020 state primary election is underway today. New Hampshire's two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua, opened their polls at 6 a.m.
For this fall's elections, any New Hampshire voter may choose to vote in person at the polls, or by absentee ballot.
The Secretary of State's office reported Monday morning that 75,287 absentee ballots had already been returned for the state primary. As NHPR's Casey McDermott reports, "That's at least eight times as many absentee ballots as were cast in the 2016 primary election."
In-person voting is an option for any New Hampshire voter today. But voters who still want to cast an absentee ballot can do so anytime before the polls close today.
If you already completed an absentee ballot and just need to drop it off, it should be delivered to your local polling place by 5 p.m. You can also have a family member or another state-approved “delivery agent” return your absentee ballot by that deadline.
But if you can’t make it to your polling place by that time, you can show up and request to use accessible absentee voting - which allows you to cast a ballot without going inside a voting booth - any time before your polling place closes.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office sent out a reminder to all local election officials about these deadlines early Tuesday, after NHPR alerted the state to errors about absentee voting on several local websites.
Exeter and Bedford, both with sizeable voting populations, wrongly stated on their websites Tuesday morning that "election officials are not authorized to accept absentee ballots at the polls."
Again, according to state officials, you can still vote absentee at the polls today. The Exeter clerk’s office told NHPR this was an oversight and they’re correcting the mistake. Absentee ballots were still being accepted at Exeter’s polling place, despite what the website said.
NHPR left a message at the Bedford clerk’s office but hasn’t yet heard back. The state says it was in touch with both communities directly Tuesday morning to address the issue. Any voter who runs into problems casting a ballot can call the New Hampshire Attorney General's election hotline at 1-866-868-3703 (1-866-VOTER03) or email email@example.com.
You can also contact the Secretary of State’s election hotline at 1-833-726-0034.
For more information about voting absentee or in-person during COVID-19, check out NHPR’s elections guide here.
NHPR wants to hear from you: How is your voting experience during COVID-19? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some of the voters we've heard from so far:
In-person voting was very easy here in Amherst. They had lines easily marked out and everyone I saw wore a mask. I like the ballot cover sheet issued to us to mark the ballot and place into the ballot counter. Nice touch.
- Steve Kimner, Amherst
I voted in Ward 6 in Manchester at 10am today. Besides a little confusion about where I should check in and interacting with a volunteer who was a bit too eager to help, it was seamless. I didn't have to wait in line (a small line had formed by the time I finished), there was plenty of opportunity for social distancing and everyone was wearing a mask. I was in and out in a few minutes.
- Angela, Manchester
I voted this morning in Dover, Ward 2. We recently got a new polling place so this was only my second time voting in this location. Due to Covid (presumably) they moved the voting location inside of the elementary school from a classroom to the gym/auditorium. It was well marked and seemed highly safe with social distancing practices. I was surprised to take a pen from a box at check-in, use it for voting and then after inserting my ballot into the machine asked where I could leave my pen. The poll worker said I could keep it. I don't know why they didn't just collect the pens and clean them for reuse. Or I would have happily used my own pen if I'd known. That is my only complaint with today's voting process.
- Susan Dunker, Dover
I hope they put safety measures in place before the November election. The staff were protected but people were exiting and entering through the same doors, there were no distances marked on the floor. Not one official was at the entrance requesting face covering. It was uncomfortable and disappointing. I expected better.
- Jeanette, Manchester
Easy breezy voting. They had a station set up at the door with masks, sanitizer, etc. Check-in had a plexiglass barrier. Folks needed to be 6 feet apart. Chairs at tables were set up 6 feet apart for voting. Each voting seat had sanitizing wipes to use if you wanted to wipe down the table or chair. Gave me a pencil and asked that I take it with me when I left. Gave me a mat to put down on the table underneath my ballot, which I was also asked to take with me or could toss out at the door. Sanitizer for my use upon exit. In and out in 5 mins.
- Susan Kelly, Deering
I voted today in Ward 3 Portsmouth. It was super easy. There were no lines. There appeared to be more poll workers than voters. It took 5 minutes. Everyone wore a mask. I can't wait for November!
- Justin Richardson, Portsmouth
I voted in Ward 3 in Nashua. It was a smooth experience, but I can't help but say I was disappointed to see Congressional candidate Steve Negron show up without a mask. He shook hands, and hugged a woman before she headed into the polls. He failed to maintain social distancing while talking to supporters. I'm old enough to remember when leadership meant setting an example.
- Keith Thompson, Nashua
Just came back. Not many folks there. All wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart. No problems at all. Everybody was very friendly and nice. Selectman and state reps were there. Good, positive experience. But I do wish there were more people voting. Worried they have forgotten about it. Hasn’t received that much attention. Hard to find out about the candidates, especially those lower down on the ballot.
- Barbara Southard, Bradford
I voted by "mail" for the first time. I received my ballot last Tuesday, dropped it off at the Nashua clerk's office Friday. Easy. No line.
- David Henderson, Nashua
My wife and I voted at the Windham High School gymnasium a short while ago. We consider the entire experience to be excellent. There was hand sanitizer available when you entered the gym as well when you departed. All of the workers and volunteers wore masks. When you checked in, you were given your ballot, a disposable pad to place the ballot on, and a black inked pen to use and keep. Plastic gloves were available if you wanted them. There were some candidates and their supporters standing in the lawn outside the high school. Most acknowledged you with a “Good Morning.” Some of them wore masks and some didn’t. I don’t believe the Windham Town Clerk could have done anything more to keep everyone safe.
- Victor Sabalauskas, Windham
We voted by absentee ballot last week. We hand-delivered our ballots to a nice young lady at the walk-up window at Madbury Town Hall. Could not have been easier.
- Richard & Sandra, Madbury
I live in Ward 4 in Concord, NH. I voted at 8:30 this morning. There weren't any lines and the whole process was pretty seamless. I was in and out in 5 minutes. In terms of covid precautions, I felt very safe. Everyone had a mask, there was a clear flow to foot traffic, I got my own pen to take home, and I sanitized my hands on the way out. It was wonderful!
- Kelly Buchanan, Concord
I voted absentee and it was easy. I received the information from our town, filled out the ballot request and scanned and emailed the request to our town clerk. I received my actual ballot in 2-3 days in the U.S. Mail. I then filled out the ballot and delivered it back in person to town hall. They have a dropbox so it was safe and easy. I checked the absentee ballot search page to see that my envelope was received by the town on 8/25/20. I also emailed the town clerk to change back to undeclared which also was accomplished. In all, very easy and efficient.
- Barbara Mellert, Hanover
I voted by Absentee Ballot in Milford, NH. The process was smooth and easy. I mailed my ballot at the Milford PO and it got to the clerk in 2 days. I used the link to the Attorney General to track the ballot and see that it was received. I chose to vote absentee because I am 71 and doing all I can to stay safe and healthy!
- Cathy Goldwater, Milford
I voted at 6:45 a.m. this morning at Parkside Middle School on the West Side. They did a great job; everyone wearing PPE, hand sanitizer was required on entry, and there were plexi-glass partitions in place. It felt very safe and controlled and left me optimistic for November's election day.
- Sarah Landry, Manchester