As New Hampshire enters its fifth week under a stay at home order, elections have been on the minds of many of our state's leaders. How will NH ensure that all voters can safely cast their ballots during a pandemic? LNH Alumni involved in this task include members from our first LNH class up to our most recent class of 2020.
Steve Reno's Granite Views column, titled Standing proud again, is in the current issue of The Hippo and can be read in full below.
Representing our current Leadership NH class, Maggie Goodlander '20, discussed on The Legal Impact podcast how COVID-19 will impact elections and steps that are being taken to expand absentee voting and voting by mail. Listen to the full podcast here.
If you want more information about how you can help, email Steve Reno at [email protected]
Standing Proud Again
On February 3rd, the nation watched as the Iowa Presidential Caucuses began to fall apart. Here in New Hampshire, our attention was even keener as it became obvious we had the opportunity to show how a primary should be run. The decades old NH pride in its primary suddenly took on even great importance. “We stood proud before; we’ll stand proud again” was the mantra.
Now New Hampshire has a second opportunity to stand proudly, this time in the wake of the Wisconsin election earlier this month. Despite requests from voters, poll workers, public health officials, and even the Governor and Democratic legislators, the statewide Republican leadership insisted that the in-person election be held, even in the middle of a national pandemic. For so many voters, this forced a choice between risking their health or losing their franchise. The results were poignantly captured in photographs of huge, long lines of folks braving adverse weather and trying to maintain social distancing.
Our state now has a fresh chance to show what can be done to hold a safe and secure election — in September and in November — while ensuring that no one who is eligible and wishes to vote will be denied. A first step has been taken with the amplification of the “physical disability” reason for applying for an absentee ballot. In the context of a national health care emergency, any eligible voter will be able to request an absentee ballot for health risk reasons. But there are other steps that need to follow.
Election precincts across the state are not set up to process large numbers of absentee ballots. If the typical ratio of 90% in-person voting and 10% absentee voting were reversed, the impact would be enormous. Time, however, is on our side. Between now and the September election, and with additional federal assistance, our state can prepare for such a shift. The steps are clear: Facilitate the process by which a voter can register. At the appropriate time, mail out to all registered voters a ballot and postage-paid return envelope, bar-coded to ensure it is the registered voter who is sending it in. Allow two weeks for the voting process. Staff voting precincts with a mix of volunteers as well as members of the state’s National Guard.
Will this take time and resources? Certainly. However, what more fundamental process do we citizens have for choosing our government? Should we not do what is needed and spend what is required to ensure universal franchise?
New Hampshire truly has an opportunity to show again how it should be done.