NH ballots

Epsom Town Clerk Laura Scearbo loads absentee votes back into a file cabinet at the town offices on Oct. 15.

It’s too late to mail in your absentee ballot and be certain that it will get counted on Election Day, but it’s not too late to vote early in New Hampshire. You just have to hand in the ballot yourself.

You’ll be in good company because lots of people are voting early, partly because changes to election laws prompted by COVID-19 mean that anybody can do it.

As of Tuesday morning, a whopping 181,000 ballots had been turned in early in New Hampshire, which is one-quarter of the entire turnout of four years ago when Donald Trump narrowly lost here to Hillary Clinton. The number of absentee ballots cast blows away any previous early-voting results in the state, and yet by national standards we’re only middle of the pack: Nationally, 66 million early votes have been case, which is 48 percent of the entire 2016 turnout.

But New Hampshire early voters aren’t finished. Roughly 44,000 ballots have been requested and had not turned in as of Tuesday. They might be making their slow way through the mail, or maybe the voters have decided to turn them in by hand.

If you are one of those hand-in folks, or you want to be one, here’s how it works: Go to your town or city website and look up the opening hours for your town clerk. Those are the times you can vote early and hand in your ballot.

If you haven’t registered to vote, you can do it at the same time as voting. Bring evidence of your address, such as a utility bill, and photo identification if you have it. If you’re not sure what to bring, call the clerk and ask.

Once there, formally request the ballot. You can fill it out in the clerk’s office or take the ballot home to ponder your choices, then drive it back.

The completed ballot 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,” which this year includes concern about COVID-19. Then, that envelope will be placed into the outer envelope and kept securely to be ultimately processed and then 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.

Absentee ballots can also be delivered at the polls on election day before 5 p.m.

You can track your ballot online through the Secretary of State’s website: sos.nh.gov/elections/voters/absentee-ballots/absentee-ballot-status.

This article is being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.