Coronavirus Coverage - Elections and Voting | New Hampshire Public Radio

Coronavirus Coverage - Elections and Voting

A photo shows Manchester election workers reviewing returned absentee ballots ahead of the 2020 November election. They're inside a large event space the city rented out to accommodate the high number of ballots and people needed to process them.
Casey McDermott, NHPR

In each major election, hundreds of New Hampshire absentee voters are disenfranchised because of simple paperwork mistakes — and often, they might not know until it’s too late to fix their error. But a new proposal, building off of changes implemented during the pandemic, could provide a solution that ensures more people can have their votes counted in elections to come.

Dan Tuohy, NHPR

Towns and school districts across the state are preparing for this year’s Town Meeting Day, March 9. Some NHPR listeners have reached out to ask how towns will balance the need to gather for local elections with precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

We looked into those issues, and here’s what we learned.

A sign along the road in Durham reads, "Thank you for voting absentee."
Annie Ropeik, NHPR

Expanded absentee voting eligibility helped propel New Hampshire to a new voter turnout record in 2020, despite lots of uncertainty around how the pandemic would affect the election. Now, policymakers are split — largely along partisan lines —  about what the future of absentee voting in New Hampshire should look like.

N.H. Towns Get Okay To Postpone Annual Meetings, Again, Due To COVID Concerns

Jan 23, 2021
Vote here sign

Gov. Chris Sununu announced Friday that Town Meeting deliberative sessions, traditional Town Meetings and official ballot voting days for Town Meetings this year can be postponed upon the decision of local officials due to COVID-19 concerns. Voting procedures may also be modified for safety purposes after consultation with town moderators, the attorney general’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Annie Ropeik, NHPR

Plymouth Town Clerk Josie Girona Ewing wants to be clear: She doesn’t do this job for the money. She does it because she wants her neighbors to be able to trust their elections. But living up to that goal in 2020 took a lot of extra effort — and extra hours.

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

When the New Hampshire Legislature meets for Organization Day Wednesday, it will select the Secretary of State. Bill Gardner, who's held the position for the last 44 years, is likely to sail smoothly into re-election for a 23rd term.

This photo, from the Windham Town Clerk's Facebook page, shows the totals initially reported on election night.
Windham Town Clerk's Office on Facebook

New Hampshire's Ballot Law Commission has joined a bipartisan chorus calling for the state attorney general's office to review why the recount totals in a contested Windham State House race differed substantially from what was recorded at the polls on Election Night.

Voters in line in Newfields, N.H., on Nov. 3, 2020
Dan Tuohy, NHPR

Editor's note: This story was updated on Nov. 13 with additional information received from state and local officials about the polling place exposures.

Anyone who stood in line at a New Hampshire polling place on Election Day should monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, state officials said Thursday — more than one week after the election took place.

Proud to vote sticker and a ballot.
Rebecca Lavoie/NHPR

Expanded absentee voting eligibility was expected to reshape voting patterns in New Hampshire in this year's elections. New numbers from the Secretary of State make the scale of that shift clear, with New Hampshire seeing both record turnout and a huge jump in the rate of absentee voting this year.

A mailbox and sign saying "Hand in Your Ballot to the Town Clerk" outside Durham Town Hall Oct. 31
Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Maybe you voted absentee in the general election, and you’re wondering whether your vote was counted. Or maybe you just registered to vote in the past few weeks, or even on Election Day at the polls, and want to verify that your information was recorded correctly.

Absentee votes are counted in Nashua
Sarah Gibson, NHPR

That sound you heard across New Hampshire on Tuesday was a collective exhale over months of pent-up election anxiety —  not about the final results, but about what kind of chaos or confusion or conflict a presidential election in the time of coronavirus, under the distant but looming threat of civil unrest, might have in store.

Voters line up at the Manchester City Clerk's office on Oct. 24, 2020.
Dan Tuohy, NHPR

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.

Via COAST on Twitter

The COAST bus service on the Seacoast will require passengers to wear face masks while aboard its vehicles starting next Monday.

The transit service says it's following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control as COVID cases increase in New Hampshire. Riders will be offered pre-wrapped disposable masks for the first couple of weeks of the rule.

COAST employees are also required to wear masks in most cases.

Some passengers are exempt from the rule under CDC advice. COAST officials are asking passengers not to bother other riders who may not be wearing a mask.


New Hampshire's poll workers are getting ready for Tuesday's election, amid the many challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Deborah Fauver, an election moderator at Kennett High School in Conway, said this is her second time working a presidential election. She said the team has spread out polling locations and is keeping PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on hand.

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Casey McDermott, NHPR

The Manchester Doubletree Hilton hotel has hosted its fair share of campaign events through the years, but this past weekend it also hosted a crucial part of the voting process — serving as the absentee ballot pre-processing hub for New Hampshire’s largest city.

Clockwise from top left: Dartmouth Student Assembly members Elliott Montroll, Cait McGovern, David Millman, Jennifer Qian, Jake Maguire and Jonathan Briffault on a Zoom call.
Zoom Screenshot

The pandemic has upended lots of things about campus life for the nation’s college students this fall — including voting. That’s particularly true in New Hampshire, a place where the student vote has made a difference in close elections.


They may not be old enough to vote, but a group of fifth-grade students in Keene, New Hampshire is making the case for why you should cast your ballot in the Nov. 3 election.

The students at Fuller Elementary School recorded a series of public service announcements about the importance of voting. The PSAs also included information about how to register, and that absentee voting has been expanded to everyone this year due to COVID-19.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: Oct 30, 2020

Oct 29, 2020

With only four days to go until Election Day, we discuss poll watchers and other voting issues. Then, we dig into why advocates in New Hampshire are rethinking the role of county attorney and how the Black Lives Matter movement is working to translate momentum into policy change. We also have our final installment of our Down-ballot series. 

Air date: Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. 

Secretary of State Bill Gardner addresses local election officials in a Zoom meeting.
Zoom Screenshot

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has overseen New Hampshire elections for more than four decades and worked on voting policy in the Legislature several years before that — but even he’s never seen anything like 2020.

Dan Tuohy, NHPR

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is expanding its voter assistance hotline to cover eight different languages most commonly spoken by the state’s immigrant and refugee communities, filling in where state election officials have declined to provide official bilingual voting resources.

A voting sign
Ellen Grimm / NHPR

This post has been updated with additional comments from the state Republican and Democratic parties.

College students who previously registered to vote in New Hampshire do not automatically lose their voting eligibility if they’re out of state due to remote learning or other circumstances, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office affirmed Wednesday.

A sign along the road in Durham reads, "Thank you for voting absentee."
Annie Ropeik, NHPR

Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said state officials recently met with representatives from the United States Postal Service to address concerns raised by local election officials about changes affecting absentee ballot delivery.

A jar of "clean pens" at a New Hampshire polling place during the September 2020 state primary.
Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Editor's note: If you came to this story because you heard a conspiracy theory about Sharpies invalidating ballots in other states, please know that there is no evidence to those claims. You can read more in this advisory from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or this reporting from our public radio colleagues in Arizona. We also invite you to read the full story below, which explains the safeguards built into the voting system to ensure all ballots are counted.

Jessica Hunt/NHPR

Election officials say that as of Oct. 13, more than 78,000 general election absentee ballots had already been returned by voters; that's more absentee ballots than were counted in total during the 2016 general election. And plenty of people are still planning to vote in person. We talk with election officials to find out how they are keeping up and what they are anticipating as Election Day, Nov. 3, approaches. We want you to be a part of the conversation, too. Let's hear your questions and comments around the voting process and your experiences so far. Email to participate or call in during the show: 1-800-892-6477.

Airdate: Monday, Oct. 19, 2020

A copy of the absentee ballot application form with a note attached that says, "You are needed please fill this out & mail it in."
New Hampshire Attorney General's Office

Your mailbox is probably packed with campaign fliers and get-out-the-vote material these days. With so many voters handling the balloting process by mail this year, it can be confusing to figure out what kind of election paperwork is legit. And if you’re not careful, returning the wrong paperwork to your local elections office could compromise your vote.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Whether you plan to cast an absentee ballot or plan to head to your local polling place on Election Day, or even if you haven’t yet finalized your voting plan and need more information to help make up your mind, NHPR can help. 

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: Oct 16, 2020

Oct 15, 2020

As positive COVID cases are on the rise in New Hampshire, we discuss why that is and how to protect ourselves as we head into the colder winter months. Also, NHPR's reporters will update us on local voting issues and our recent live debates. We also chat about how COVID will impact Halloween festivities this year. Plus, our latest installment in our series Down Ballot. 

Air date: Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. 

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: October 9, 2020

Oct 8, 2020

Senator Maggie Hassan joins us to discuss voting issues and the upcoming committee hearings on the Supreme Court nominee, as the coronavirus spreads through the White House and reaches several Republican senators. The president calls for supporters to "watch the polls" so we find out what is allowed at N.H. voting places, and field your questions about mail-in voting. N.H. schools transition to hybrid models, but there’s some pushback from parents. And what’s going on with races for county sheriff in N.H.?

Air date: Friday, Oct. 9, 2020.

The 2020 general election is November 3. A sign that says "vote" in capital letters sits in a yard.
Britta Greene for NHPR

State election officials say they will work with their counterparts in the U.S. Postal Service to clear up concerns around an apparent policy change that’s causing some absentee ballots to make an extra trip through regional processing hubs, even if they’re just going from one address to another within the same city or town.

Democracy In Turmoil & Election Stress

Oct 5, 2020
Ted Eytan / Flickr

The U.S. presidential election is just four weeks away. There is confusion about the president's COVID-19 diagnosis and timeline, with a widening circle of advisors falling ill. The president has refused to commit to the peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, and impugned the electoral process, even as unprecedented numbers of voters are opting to use mail-in ballots. We examine the threats to American democracyand the role of the media in battling disinformation. Then we talk with the therapist who coined the term "election stress disorder." Symptoms include “irritability and resentment, covering up anxiety and a sense of powerlessness" and he has some suggestions for how to cope. Air date: Tuesday, October 6, 2020