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Turnout varied widely in Tuesday’s storm-tossed N.H. town election day

  • Lynn Auger leaves a voting booth at the Dunbarton Community Center during Tuesday’s snowstorm on town voting day, March 13, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, March 15, 2018

Not surprisingly, Tuesday’s storm seems to have dampened town election turnout in the Concord region, although there’s at least one place where that might not be true.

“When we have sunny elections, we often have smaller turnout,” said Mridula Naik, town clerk in Bow . “Maybe people have other things to do. It’s funny, we haven’t figured it out.”

It certainly wasn’t sunny Tuesday, but Bow was among the region’s leaders in turnout at 18 percent.

Warner, frequently the turnout leader, appears to have led the region in turnout at 29 percent – 651 voters out of 2,205 registered voters. Hopkinton also did relatively well with 21 percent turnout – and it gets some sort of numerology award because exactly 1,000 ballots were cast in its election – as did Sanbornton with 17 percent.

At the other end of the region’s turnout spectrum were Deering (11 percent, 146 ballots cast with 1,353 registered voters), Pembroke (10 percent, 535 ballots of 5,327 registered), Allenstown (9 percent, 271 of 2,969) and Boscawen (8 percent, 209 of about 2,500).

None of these approached turnout levels common during national or state elections, as is often the case. Turnout in local elections is typically not only lower but more variable, affected very much by what’s on the ballot.

Boscawen, for example, had no contested races and just one zoning article – not much of an incentive to head out in a snowstorm. Warner, on the other hand, had three contested races, including for select board.

At least this year didn’t have the added complexity of some elections being moved. Last year 73 communities around the state delayed elections because of the snowstorm on the second Tuesday in March, leading to considerable confusion and a move by state authorities this year to prevent any more postponements.

A Monitor analysis found that the average turnout in 2017 was 14.8 percent for 30 communities that had moved election day, and 16.1 percent for 56 communities that didn’t move election day. This was too small a difference to say that moving the election reduced turnout – but we found that the storm sure did. In 2016, those same towns had average turnouts of 21 percent, far higher than in storm-tossed 2017.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)