Even before the polls close on Election Day, the pandemic has already reshaped the 2020 race in New Hampshire.
When state election officials announced this spring that any voter can cast an absentee ballot if they’re concerned about the coronavirus, it set off a record number of requests. Now, as of the morning of Nov. 3, hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire voters have already cast their ballots absentee.
The latest data from the Secretary of State shows that, as of the morning of Nov. 3, more than 235,000 Granite Staters have returned absentee ballots. That’s nearly a quarter of the total number of voters registered in New Hampshire as of August, the most comprehensive data available at this time.
New Hampshire's also reporting about a 94 percent absentee ballot return rate, though voters have until 5 p.m. on Election Day to drop off their completed absentee ballot at their local polling place. Some voters might also be voting in-person instead despite requesting an absentee ballot, which is allowed under state election laws.
It’s also already far more than the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2016 election. That year, about 75,000 absentee ballots were counted in total, representing about 10 percent of all votes counted.
This year, New Hampshire surpassed that absentee ballot total by Oct. 13 — three weeks before Election Day. The Secretary of State's office said it would report out the latest absentee voting numbers each Tuesday leading up to the general election.
The deadline for returning completed absentee ballots (by mail, by the voter themselves or by an authorized "delivery agent") is 5 p.m. on Nov. 3. Mailed or hand-delivered absentee ballots that arrive after that time will not be counted.
If a voter misses that 5 p.m. cutoff and is wary of entering their local polling place due to concerns about COVID-19, they are allowed to request an absentee ballot on-site anytime before their local polling place closes.