Will NH know the results on election night? State official, expert say, yes.

  • New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner (left) and Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan oversee the recount at the State Archives in Concord on Friday, November 16, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 10/26/2020 4:42:48 PM

Worried that you may not know election results on election night this year? You’re not alone.

In a Politico/Morning Consult poll from late-September, two-thirds of respondents said they didn’t expect to know the winner of the presidential election on election night.

Much of that concern has to do with the expanded mail-in voting being done by numerous swing states across the country, according to University of New Hampshire Survey Center Director Andrew Smith.

“It might take a few more days to figure out what happens in those cases, but I don’t think it’s going to be that long. … I think that for the most part we ought to know election night or have a pretty good feel on election night or in the day or two after,” Smith said.

This year, New Hampshire has granted for the COVID-19 pandemic to be an acceptable reason to get an absentee ballot, which is one reason why some have questioned whether the results of the election will be known on election night as in most years.

But in a recent interview, New Hampshire Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan expressed confidence in New Hampshire’s counting process.

“The fundamentals of the election have remained the same. There’ve been very few changes to those,” Scanlan said. “The way we count the ballots on Election Day is the same way we have always handled the ballots. … What’s different this year is that there will be a greater number of absentee ballots than have been received in years past.”

Just how many absentee ballots are expected to be cast in New Hampshire?

Smith predicts that at least 20% of ballots cast by New Hampshire residents will cast absentee ballots this election, far exceeding the number normally taken in by the state.

“That would by far be a record,” Smith said. “Typically it’s only about 10% of any election of people who are voting absentee.”

Based on the numbers they saw during the primary this summer, Scanlan expects even more absentee ballots, perhaps accounting for as many as 30% of the votes cast across the state. He believes that the system in place will be able to handle the large number of absentee ballots expected to come in.

While there will be more absentee ballots this year to count, Scanlan said that most races in New Hampshire will be decided on Election Day.

“I would expect that the results will still be announced on election night,” Scanlan said. “It might take a little bit longer than we’re normally used to, but they will be released by the end of the night.”

Smith does not rule out the possibility of lawsuits over ballots in swing states that could make voters wait for the winner of the presidential election.

“If there are some states that are really up for grabs, like Florida in 2000, where it’s going to take court cases to decide which ballots count, which ballots don’t count,” he said. “There’s always that probability, and I think there’s a greater chance of that being the case this year.”

To make sure your absentee ballot is counted, Smith recommends submitting your ballot in the mail a week before Election Day. Voters can also drop their absentee ballot off at their town clerk’s office on Election Day. All ballots must be in possession of the state by 5 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

“If you’re worried about the postal system, drive up to your town clerk and drop it off,” Smith said.

As long as voters follow the procedures, Smith says, it’s a pretty safe bet their vote will be counted.

“Our process has been tested quite extensively that I would not be concerned in New Hampshire that your vote is not going to count. The procedures in all the towns across the state are so distributed to multiple people and multiple offices that the chances of collusion of preventing somebody’s vote from being counted.”

Paul Lambert is an Election SOS fellow. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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