Vote-by-mail absentee ballots have been used in New Hampshire since 1775, and 7-10% of ballots cast in NH elections are by absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are traditionally used when the voter will be out of state or far away from their town, on religious holidays, and other reasons specified below. There are two applications, one for town elections, and another for state and federal elections. For any questions specific to your town, your city or town clerk is the primary election officials dealing with absentee ballots.
Those issues which pertain specifically to absentee voting during the Covid 19 pandemic are listed in dark red, below.
Voting by Absentee Ballot in NH - Normal Circumstances
- Physical disability (and for 2020, concern with COVID-19)
- Religious observance
- Absence from City on day of election
- Employment obligations. For the purpose of absentee voting, the term "employment" shall include the care of children and infirm adults, with or without compensation.
What better way to be involved in the integrity of our electoral system than becoming an election official in your community! These positions range from a Supervisor of the Checklist, which require a day-long commitment on election day and town meeting, and occasional preparatory meetings throughout the rest of the year, to Town or City Clerk, which are often part time or full time paid positions. Please NOTE this might be different in your town or city.
Local Election Official Job Descriptions
Supervisor of the Checklist
- Determine if an applicant is legally qualified to vote,
- Update the Checklist of registered voters with new voter registrations and any status changes,
- Maintain and update the voter files,
- Attend periodic training sessions held in Concord,
- Hold periodic mandatory supervisor sessions and post notices in advance, and
- Educate voters about any changes to voting procedure or law. On Election Day, supervisors are to be present before, during and after elections to set up, register voters, facilitate party changes, do data entry, and tally numbers required by the Secy. of State’s Office. Following an election, supervisors enter any new voter applications and status changes into the database and scan checklists to record voter history.
● City Clerks are appointed by City Council and are typically paid positions
● The mission of the City Clerk's Office is to efficiently meet all statutory obligations with respect to elections, vital records, and City Council.
● The City Clerk's Office is responsible for the preservation and management of all vital events occurring within the city. Those vital events include births, marriages, and deaths. In addition to vital records, the office records all official documents of the city.
● The office conducts and preserves the integrity of all local, state, and federal elections.
● The office is responsible for the preparation of all City Council agendas, minutes, and official
● All Town Clerks are Elected for a one year or three year term, depending upon which option the town voted to enact, and must live within the town in which they serve. These are typically paid positions.
● The Town Clerk appoints the Deputy Town Clerk and the appointment is subject to approval of the Selectmen.
● The Deputy Town Clerk must also be a resident of the town and able to perform all the duties of the Town Clerk
● The Town Clerk is the chief election official, is responsible for keeping all town records, certifying actions of the Selectmen and other town officials, making official reports, collecting fees, carrying out specific mandated laws and many other municipal related duties.
Supervisors of the Checklist
Three Supervisors of the Checklist are elected with staggered terms of six years to serve the voters.
● Duties include:
○ Determining if an applicant is legally qualified to vote,
○ Updating the Checklist of registered voters with new voter registrations and any status changes
○ Maintaining and updating the voter files
○ Attending periodic training sessions held in Concord
○ Holding periodic mandatory supervisor sessions and post notices in advance, and
○ Educating voters about any changes to voting procedure or law.
● On Election Day, supervisors are to be present before, during and after elections to set up, register voters, facilitate party changes, do data entry, and tally numbers required by the Secy. of State’s Office.
● Following an election, supervisors enter any new voter applications and status changes into the database and scan checklists to record voter history.
● Elected for a two year term at the annual meeting, in towns every even numbered year, in cities every other regular city election.
● The moderator is the chief election officer in charge of the polls at the ward level.
● The moderator is under the direction of the city clerk who is the city’s chief election officer.
● It is the responsibility of the moderator to make certain that all the election officers are available on the day of the election and that each is familiar with their respective duties for the day.
● The moderator is required to have the polling place open and ready to accept voters at the prescribed time
● During the election day, the moderator is charged with maintaining order at the polling place and ensuring that proper documentation is posted
● In towns, moderators also run the town meeting. They stand at the front of the room, welcome voters, and explain meeting protocols
• Town Selectman: Elected for a three year term at the annual meeting.
• Ward Selectmen: Elected for two-year terms at the biennial municipal election, every odd-numbered year.
• There are three elected selectmen per ward.
• The selectmen may be responsible for choosing the polling place. They report directly to the moderator.
• Their primary duty is to maintain the checklist and to aid the voters in the election process.
• They must be signatories on warrants and most of the election reports and are, therefore, responsible for the proper counting of the election results (including tallies and absentee counting) and providing the Ward or Town Clerk with their results.
• They are responsible for the orderly flow of voters through the polling place and to ensure that the
polls are open and functioning properly.
• They are also responsible for making appointments of ballot inspectors if the two major parties fail
to appoint within the required timeframe.
• Elected for a two-year term at the biennial municipal election, every odd-numbered year.
• The ward clerk reports to the moderator.
• The primary duty of the clerk shall be to administer and prepare the documentation required at the polling place. This includes not only the election return and tally sheets and associated reports, but will also include such documentation as poll workers time sheets, payroll records, W-4 forms, etc.
• The ward clerk must pick up the ward supplies and documentation package at the city clerk’s office before reporting to the polling place.
• The ward clerk shall also aid any voters who may need assistance in the polling area. The clerk will assist the moderator in the course of managing the polling place.
• Other duties require the clerk, at the direction of the city clerk and the Secretary of State, to require the selectmen to sign and post warrants announcing the upcoming election.
Ballot Inspector/ Ballot Clerk
Ballot Inspectors (also known as Ballot Clerks) are community members just like you interested in maintaining the integrity of our elections. As a Ballot Inspector, you would serve in one of the many roles needed at the polls - marking the checklist, handing out ballots, helping voters in need at the ballot booths, receiving ballots at the box, and more. These positions are two year terms, serve for all state and local elections, and come with a small monetary stipend for your service.
Are you ready to vote?
Have you planned how you're going to vote safely on September 8 in NH's state primary? You have options if you act quickly.
If you have had an absentee ballot sent to you already -- Mail it back by Monday, August 24 to allow for slower postal delivery and processing by your town clerk.
If you have not requested your absentee ballot, download it https://sos.nh.gov/media/rs0ly4xu/absentee-ballot-app-8-20-covid.pdf and hand-deliver the application to your town clerk. When you hand it in, consider asking for the ballot at that time to fill it out and turn it back in. Check your town clerk's hours.
For you last-minute folks: This year only, you CAN return your ballot to town or city hall yourself ON election day. Usually you cannot. Clerks offices will be open on Sept. 7, Labor Day for limited hours the day before, but check for hour. OR you can stop procrastinating return it in person now!
If you haven't registered to vote, there's still time, but do this in person at the town clerk's office, or in person at the polls on election day. You'll need and ID and proof of your "domicile." Call your clerk for details.
If you aren't able to take those steps, vote in person on September 8, wear a mask, and sanitize before you go in and out.
No matter how you vote, VOTE! Your vote is your voice, and you need to use it!