Want to send in your ballot without waiting in line Nov. 3 or without using the post office? It’s possible to do it now — in one trip.
New Hampshire towns and cities are open for in-person absentee voting. Voters can go to their town or city clerk during open hours, request a ballot, fill it out, and return it all in one go.
It isn’t technically “early voting.” The ballot is kept securely but not counted until Election Day. But for all intents and purposes, it’s the same process for the voter.
Here’s how it works. Go to your town’s website and look up the opening hours for your town clerk. Those are the times you can vote early.
When you go, make sure to bring photo identification, if you have it. That can be a driver’s license, an armed services ID, or any other ID card issued by the federal government that includes your address.
If you do not have photo identification, you will be offered a Qualified Voter Affidavit or a Domicile Affidavit to fill out. The first asks you to list your identity, age or citizenship; the second asks you to list your domicile, or primary place of residence.
And if you’re not registered in your town yet, you can do that on the same trip as well.
Once you formally request the ballot, you will receive that ballot. You can fill it out in the clerk’s office, or take it out of the office and fill it out privately — in your car for instance. You can even take the ballot home and wait a few days and then drive it or mail it back.
But the fastest method would be to fill it out and return it then and there.
Once the ballot is filled out, it will be placed into the smaller envelope, the “affidavit envelope,” and you will need to sign that affidavit, specifying that you are voting by reason of a “disability,” the catch-all box of COVID-19. Then, that envelope will be placed into the outer envelope and kept securely to be ultimately processed and counted on Election Day.
There is no deadline for this. Under state statute, a voter can show up to the clerk’s office as late as the day before Election Day to register to vote, request a ballot, fill it out and return it.
It is true that town or city supervisors of the checklist are required to meet between six and 13 days before the election to update the checklist with newly registered voters — a meeting that must be noticed ahead of time.
But even if you register and vote in-person at the clerk’s office after that meeting, you will be set. Any in-person registration submitted that late will be simply processed as an Election Day registration on Nov. 3.
According to the Secretary of State’s Election Procedure Manual, all city and town clerk’s offices must be open from at least 3 to 5 p.m. on the day before Election Day and must be able to accept absentee ballots.
As for mailing in your absentee ballot, election officials and the U.S. Postal Service recommend doing so at least two weeks before Election Day, or by Oct 20.
So what happens if you’ve received an absentee ballot by mail, filled it out and sent it in, but you’re not sure it will arrive in time for 5 p.m. Election Day, the final deadline?
First, you should first try to track the ballot. You can do this online, through the Secretary of State’s website, here: https://sos.nh.gov/elections/voters/absentee-ballots/absentee-ballot-status/. Or you can call your clerk’s office yourself.
If it appears to be too late, you can show up to your town or city clerk’s office and vote in person. You can also show up to the polling place in person on Nov. 3 and cast your vote if your ballot does not appear likely to arrive by 5 p.m.
With absentee voting, there’s always a backup option.