Bill to clarify delayed election results heads to governor’s desk

  • A small crew continually plowed and shoveled sidewalks during voting midday at Three Rivers School in Pembroke on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Polls opened at 11 a.m. and many residents came during that first hour to beat the worst of the snow storm. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Thursday, April 20, 2017

A bill headed to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk would require a public hearing before towns can ratify results of elections rescheduled because of the snowstorm. The House and Senate passed the compromise plan Thursday, which seeks to give clarity to the 73 municipalities that postponed elections and have been in legal limbo ever since.

Allenstown delayed its town election by two days, and has been unable to move forward on a $1.6 million bond for a sewer pumping station.

“We are obviously delayed here a few weeks,” said town administrator Shaun Mulholland. “By the time (the bill) becomes legal and we schedule a public hearing, then we can get on with the project finally.”

Sununu did not respond to a request for comment about whether he would sign the bill or when.

Chaos over town voting day sprung up after several municipalities rescheduled local elections due to a blizzard before Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner questioned whether the move was legal. Confusion about whether moderators can move local elections stems from ambiguous wording in a law, RSA 40:4, that says moderators can move “voting day of the meeting ... in the event (of) a weather emergency.”

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said “voting day” doesn’t refer to the ballot election of officials, and that other portions of statute give the official political calendar final say on when town elections must be held.

The amendment would require a town hold a public hearing before a school board or select board can vote to ratify the election results.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)