Voting is one of our greatest privileges and greatest responsibilities as American citizens. It is a responsibility that we must take seriously and fulfill. However, concerns about COVID-19 make fulfilling that responsibility fraught with concern.
New Hampshire is doing better than most states in this era of COVID-19, however we are not out of the woods yet, and we should continue to be careful and avoid unnecessary risks. Being in an enclosed space with many other people is considered a risk, therefore the state is making it easier to vote absentee in the upcoming election cycle. Voting absentee makes voting safer for voters and for your friends and neighbors who are working at the polling stations.
Some states that have had their presidential primaries since the beginning of the pandemic have seen absentee voting rates soar from 2% of the electorate voting absentee in 2016 to 75% of the electorate voting absentee in 2020. This is an enormous amount of paperwork for town clerks to handle. Please request your absentee ballots as soon as possible and return them as soon as possible.
In order to vote absentee, you must first apply for an absentee ballot. There are two ways to do this: you can get an application from the internet (from the Town website or the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website) or you can get an application from your Town Clerk.
In Andover, our Town Clerk and Tax Collector is Bonnie Wesley. You can contact her at TCTC@nullAndover-NH.gov or call 735-5018 and she will mail you an application. You can also go to Town Hall to pick up an application.
You can get an application and instructions from the Town website at Andover-NH.gov/Town-Clerk-Tax-Collector/Pages/Voting-Elections or from the Secretary of State’s website at SOS.NH.gov; click on the link “Voting During COVID-19,” then select “Absentee Ballot Application – download the form,” and print it out.
If you do not have a printer or internet access, you can ask the Andover librarian to print it out for you and you can come to the library to pick it up.
Then you should either mail the completed application (PO Box 361, Andover, NH 03216) or hand-deliver it directly to the Town Clerk, and your request will be processed.
The Governor has just signed House Bill 1266 into law. HB1266 makes the process of voting absentee easier than usual. Voters may check off a box for “COVID-19” on the application as the reason for requesting an absentee ballot and request absentee ballots for both the September 8 and the November 3 elections on the one application form.
Once you receive your absentee ballot, be sure to fill it out carefully. Be sure to sign the envelope, and be sure to return your ballot so that it arrives at Town Hall on or before Election Day. Having your ballot postmarked by Election Day but arriving at Town Hall after Election Day makes your ballot invalid.
You may mail your ballot to Town Hall in the pre-addressed provided envelope, or you may hand deliver it to the Town Clerk. You may not leave it in the drop box used to pay tax bills, license your dog, etc. It must be handed directly to the Town Clerk.
Town halls are expecting a large increase in absentee ballots so please request your ballot as soon as possible and return it as soon as possible.
Be sure to avoid the two most common mistakes made with absentee ballots which result in the ballot being invalid: don’t forget to sign the outside of the ballot as directed, and be sure to mail it to Town Hall so that it arrives before or on Election Day. The Post Office is also expecting mail backlogs, so please return your ballot as soon as possible.
People may request absentee ballots for reasons of absence, disability, work obligation, childcare, religious commitment, or COVID-19.
If you are not a registered voter yet, you may also register to vote absentee. Forms for this can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.
Please also consider helping out on Election Day. (Greet people, direct foot traffic, check people in, answering questions, etc.) There will be plenty of PPE supplies for all workers. Please contact Bonnie Wesley if you are interested in helping out.
(Lee Wells is Town Moderator for the elections; Paul Currier is Town Moderator pro tem and will oversee the Town Meeting.)