As the dust settles on the New Hampshire state primary Sept. 8 — the first test of voting in the time of the pandemic — many elections officials have declared it an operational success with record-setting numbers of voters coming to the polls and sending in absentee ballots.
Towns and cities are now working to ramp up their operations ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election, which is expected to see an even bigger surge in live and absentee voting.
In the meantime, the Secretary of State’s Office has released data on how the Granite State’s COVID-19 voting trial turned out. Here are some of the takeaways from Tuesday’s vote totals:
Strong college voting
One question that’s been answered: The college-town vote remains strong despite the virus. Amid uncertainty from some progressive groups over how the pandemic would affect turnout and how many people would stay home from college and vote in their states, college towns in many cases saw their highest turnouts in the past four years.
Hanover, for example, received 2,394 votes for the Democratic ballot — a 70 percent increase compared to 2018, when 1,406 people voted.
Durham and Keene set modest increases over 2018’s record, but both were way up from the 2016 state primary. Where 993 people voted in Durham in September 2016, 2,273 voted last Tuesday.
The reasons for the swell in Democratic enthusiasm are likely nationally driven; interest in the presidential election appears to have grown significantly. According to the numbers, that surge has, for now, survived a pandemic.
GOP votes in person
Cultural divisions between the two American political parties have only increased in the last 10 years. Now, they even vote differently.
On Tuesday, New Hampshire Democrats took to absentee voting far more than Republicans, the numbers show.
Of the 147,695 Republicans who voted in total, only 16 percent voted absentee — or 23,671 in all. The other 124,024 Republicans showed up to the polls in person.
Democrats, in comparison, had 42.6 percent out of 156,976 voters send in absentee ballots — a total of 66,651.
Still, neither party saw a majority of its voters voting absentee.
However, the total votes cast — 304,671 — beat the record for a state primary, which was set in 2018. The total number of absentee votes — 90,322 — was also easily record-setting, Gardner said.
The partisan differences between voting in person versus absentee played out at the county level, in most cases. In Merrimack County, for example, 41 percent of Democrats voted absentee, versus 15.1 percent of Republicans.
In Hillsborough county, the split was 43 percent of Democrats voting absentee to 15.8 percent, respectively.
But in other counties Democrats were more evenly split — with the divide between in-person and absentee ballot voters hovering around 50-50 in Grafton and Carroll counties for instance.
Overall, Republicans were more united in their preferences. In every county, a strong majority favored going to the polls in person.
Writing in Sununu
The grand New Hampshire tradition of crossing party lines on a general election ballot to mix and match the politicians you like is alive and well. Granite State political history is brimming with examples of voters sending a Republican to the governorship but a Democrat to the mayor’s office — or Congress.
But this year it’s happening in the primaries, too. According to data released by the Secretary of State’s Office, a high number of voters who picked up a Democratic ballot and voted for Democratic candidates decided to write in Republican incumbent Chris Sununu’s name in the race for governor, rather than choosing Democrats Dan Feltes or Andru Volinsky.
In total, 4,276 Democratic voters opted for Gov. Sununu on the ballots — around 3 percent of the vote. And about 14,600 voters pulled a Democratic ballot but did not vote for governor at all.
The effect was present on the other side too, but to a lesser extent. Of the 147,695 Republican voters, 133 wrote in Dan Feltes.
The dynamic is an example of the challenges that Feltes faces as he revs up his campaign operation for November: With a well known governor with high ratings for his coronavirus response still in office, getting independents and even some Democrats on board could be harder than it looks.
The headline has been changed as it incorrectly stated the party turnout in the primary.