Know before you go: Answers to common questions about in-person voting rules

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 10/28/2020 8:58:09 AM

Election day is a little more than a week away and it is important for you to know what is allowed and not allowed in a polling place so you can vote without trouble. It’s especially important to know what identification you need to be able to vote.

What identification should I bring to register at the polls?

In New Hampshire, if you are registering to vote on the day of the election, you need to prove your age, citizenship, and domicile -- where you live. However, if you do not have the required documentation you’ll still be able to vote. 

“Nobody should be turned away from registering to vote simply because they don’t have the documents [required],” said ACLU-NH Staff Attorney Henry Klementowicz. 

However, having documents can make the process easier. Some documents can be used to prove multiple requirements, Klementowicz added. A passport could be used to prove your age and citizenship, but not domicile because a passport does not show your address. A driver’s license can prove your domicile and age, but not citizenship. 

“There’s a broad category of documents that can be used to prove each of those,” Klementowicz said. 

If you don’t have the documents, you’ll be asked to sign a Qualified Voter Affidavit under oath in front of an election official attesting that you are eligible to vote. After doing the affidavit, you will be able to vote.

What identification should I bring if I’m already registered?

If you are already registered to vote, you still have to bring photo identification, like a passport or driver’s license, to prove your identity. But if you do not have any form of photo identification, you are still able to vote. 

“If you don’t have the photo ID, you still are allowed to vote, you just have to fill out a legal statement confirming your identity, and your picture will be taken, or you can sign an affidavit of religious exemption,” said Klementowicz.

State officials will check any affidavits signed at a polling place to ensure the integrity of the election and minimize any efforts of voter fraud. 

Do you have to wear a mask? 

Polling places will differ on whether or not you require a face covering to enter a polling place. According to a memo from the New Hampshire Attorney General and New Hampshire Secretary of State, moderators have the ability to “choose whether to . . . require a face covering/mask at their respective polling places.”

However, if a polling place requires a face covering, there must be accommodations in place for people who refuse to wear a face covering. These accommodations can be whatever the moderator deems most appropriate, such as a separate area in the polling place or outdoor voting.

If a voter still refuses to use these accommodations and they can not be persuaded to use them or wear a face covering, then they cannot vote. 

What can you wear and what can’t you wear?

While you might want to show your support for your candidate while voting, that could cause a problem. Electioneering refers to activity that is meant to influence voters. Clothing is a part of electioneering, as a result, any political clothing can not be worn inside a polling place. 

“There is a statute on electioneering, and it prohibits people from advocating for or against a particular candidate,” said Klementowicz. “It prohibits someone from wearing clothing with a for-or-against type message.”

During the New Hampshire Primary on Sept. 8, a woman in Exeter was not allowed to vote due to her t-shirt, which read “McCain Hero, Trump Zero.” In response, the voter took off the shirt and voted topless. 

What should you do to protect yourself?

The safest way to vote during the pandemic is by using an absentee ballot, which any New Hampshire voter can do if they have any health concerns regarding COVID-19. A voter is also able to vote absentee in person, filling out a ballot at their local city/town clerk’s office. 

If you are going to vote in-person at a polling place, then it is best to practice CDC guidelines: practice social distancing, wash your hands, and wear a face covering.

Can you bring a firearm to a polling place?

New Hampshire is an open carry state which means you do not need a license or a permit to openly carry or conceal carry a firearm. Concealed carry permits are only issued in New Hampshire for the sake of reciprocity with other states.

However, the answer is a little less clear when the polling place is located at a school. Federal law bans firearms within 1,000 feet of a school.

The State Attorney General’s office issued a statement saying voters with firearms can vote no matter the polling place, but “if a voter does not have a concealed carry permit and carries a firearm into the school while voting, that person may be violating federal law.”

Summed up, in New Hampshire, voters are allowed to bring a firearm into any polling place. But if that polling place is a school, the voter must possess a concealed carry permit.

Any further questions on polling places and procedure can be found on the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website.

Kenneth Tran 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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