Election 2020: Poll-watchers, voter intimidation not a concern in New Hampshire

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 10/22/2020 5:51:53 PM
Modified: 10/22/2020 5:51:43 PM

Election officials across New Hampshire are prepared to deal with poll-watchers and any sort of voter intimidation at polling places.

With roughly two weeks before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, many voters have already cast their ballots now that New Hampshire is allowing anyone with concerns or fears about Covid-19 to submit absentee ballots this year.

However, for those who wish to keep with tradition and cast their ballots in person, another concern for some deals with worries about poll-watchers.

During the first presidential debate held in Cleveland, Ohio in September, President Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to go into the polls with a watchful eye.

“I am encouraging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen - I am urging them to do it,” Trump said during the debate.

In New Hampshire, it is legal to watch the election as it happens at a polling location to a certain degree.

“You have a right to watch from the designated spaces, the election happening on election day,” Henry Klementowicz, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said. “What you don’t have a right to do is disrupt or harass election workers or voters, or intimidate or coerce them.”

People will once again have that opportunity on Nov. 3, although those designated spaces will likely fit fewer people than in year’s past given the current circumstances with Covid-19 and the need for social distancing.

“The moderator will be able to manage that process, maybe put time limits on how long a person can watch the process before they have to leave and let somebody else come in and have the same opportunity,” Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said.

Upon arriving at a polling location, New Hampshire voters often come across people holding signs outside the facility for or against particular candidates, whereas that behavior is not allowed inside the polling place by voters and spectators alike.

Moreover, New Hampshire does have safeguards in place to protect against voter intimidation included in RSA 659:40 Section 2:

“II. No person shall use or threaten force, violence, or any tactic of coercion or intimidation to knowingly induce or compel any other person to vote or refrain from voting, vote or refrain from voting for any particular candidate or ballot measure, or refrain from registering to vote.”

Scanlan explained that this concern about potential intimidation and unannounced poll-watchers showing up at polling places is not new to this upcoming election, citing how it has happened in the past.

“What we find is that despite the bluster and the comments beforehand, rarely does it manifest itself at a particular polling place,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan said that moderators in New Hampshire are pretty adept at defusing situations with individual voters and do a good job at addressing issues with voters who may be agitated or not keen on complying with the norms one would expect at a polling place. He explained how a lot of times in these sorts of instances, a voter just wants to be heard, and that election officials are respectful and able to defuse those sorts of situations.

“We’re prepared for those types of situations, but we have not heard anything that is particularly alarming,” Scanlan said.

If someone finds themself intimidated at the polls, they should contact the moderator to let them know that this activity is taking place. The moderator is the chief election official at a polling place on the day of an election, and is responsible for dealing with those types of issues. If an instance of voter intimidation does occur, moderators have resources available to them such as local police departments and the Attorney General’s Office.


These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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