Thanks to the extraordinarily strong spirit of volunteerism in Andover and the graciousness, determination, and gratitude of the voters, the election, which had been billed as “historic” and “contentious,” was smooth and uneventful.
While attending Zoom training sessions for moderators, I heard again and again how towns were having trouble finding people to volunteer. However, that was not the case for Andover. Forty-one volunteers augmented the impressive amount of work done by our Town Clerks, members of our Select Board, our Supervisors of the Checklist, the principal and staff of AE/MS, and our Police Department to ensure a safe and secure election. It truly was an exercise in government of, by, and for the people.
Of the 1,602 votes cast in Andover, 619 were absentee (38.6%, which is higher than the state-wide percentage of 32%), and over 200 of those absentee ballots were cast during the two drive-through absentee voting events before the November 3 election. The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office were very helpful and supportive in terms of adjusting some of the usual protocols to make this election safer and more manageable, given the high number of absentee ballots that needed to be processed.
Voters could request an absentee ballot “out of concern for Covid-19.” Before Election Day, moderators, working with the Town Clerks and Supervisors of the Checklist, were allowed to partially pre-process absentee ballots: open the outer envelope, check to be sure the inner affidavit envelope was signed, and check to be sure that the names on the inner and outer envelopes matched.
Beginning one hour after the polls opened, absentee ballots were fully processed: names were crossed off the checklist and the ballots were placed in the ballot box. It is important to note that all ballots were placed in the ballot box together and were all counted after the polls closed at 7 PM.
The State also helped by providing plenty of PPE, sneeze guards, masks, and hand sanitizer.
There were a few very minor bumps in the course of the day. Many voters thought that the polls opened at 7 AM, so when the polls did open at 8 AM, there was somewhat of a line. Once that line dissipated, there were no other times during the day when more than a few voters at a time were waiting to check in, or waiting for a booth, or waiting to check out.
One of the party-designated challengers observing the election reported that a voter had voted twice, however that “voter” was a poll worker who was acting as a “runner” between the mask-free voting area and the main polling area, delivering ballots to the mask-free voters and then depositing those ballots in the ballot box!
Some other information: 51 people took advantage of the mask-free voting area, and 139 people registered to vote on Election Day, which may be an all-time record for Andover. Voters came prepared and moved quickly through the check-in process, marked their ballots, checked out, and cast their ballots.
Fourteen teams of ballot counters made sure that the ballots were sorted, counted, and double checked by 9:30 PM. Finally, ballot totals were checked against the number of ballots supplied by the state.
Will the 2020 election result in changes in future elections? Only time will tell. The changes made due to COVID-19 are valid only for this election cycle.
Many voters commented that they would like to see absentee voting remain as easy as it was this year, and many felt that the drive-through voting was a great way to vote. However, it will be up to the Secretary of State’s Office and our legislators to determine if any of these changes will become more permanent.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and others who did so much to make sure that this election went off without a hitch. It wouldn’t have happened without you. Thank you!