Election 2020: How can you make sure your absentee ballot is counted?

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 2 at 5 p.m.

By Meg McIntyre via Granite State News Collaborative

With New Hampshire now allowing all voters to claim COVID-19 as a reason for voting absentee, more Granite Staters than ever will likely cast absentee ballots in this year’s election.

But with concerns around an overloaded mail system amid a global pandemic, how can you make sure your absentee ballot is counted?

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said that though New Hampshire is expecting record numbers of absentee ballots this year, not much else has changed about the voting process, and the state is confident this will be a “good election.”

“What’s different this year is that there will be a greater number of absentee ballots than have been received in years past, and because of COVID, there are going to be safety precautions in the polling places,” Scanlan said. “But neither of those two items will really affect how we count the votes.”

Granite Staters who wish to vote absentee must submit an absentee ballot request to their local clerk’s office, checking “disability” as their reason if COVID-19 is the primary concern. After receiving the ballot, voters should fill it out, carefully following the enclosed instructions, and either mail it or return it in person to their town clerk by 5 p.m. on Election Day.

The N.H. Secretary of State’s Office has an absentee ballot tracker on its website, which allows voters to look up the status of their absentee ballot or absentee ballot request. All that’s required to track your ballot is your legal name, date of birth, and the city or town where you registered to vote. The ballots are tracked via a unique barcode, which clerks can scan to update a voter’s record in the state database, according to Scanlan.

“The information related to the request for an absentee ballot and at what stage the absentee ballot is in is entered into the state election voter database,” Scanlan said in an interview for the N.H. PBS program The State We’re In. “And because that information is in there, the voter is able to then provide their personal information into the app, and it will pull that information from the database.”

After the election, voters can also check that system to find out if their vote was counted, and if their ballot was rejected, they can get in touch with their local clerk’s office to find out why.

Those who may be concerned about potential delays in the mail system have the option of dropping off their absentee ballot in person at their local clerk’s office, while some cities and towns have so established secure, staffed drop box locations. And if picking up an absentee ballot in person, voters can also fill out the ballot and hand it back right then and there.

Anna Brown, director of research and analysis for nonpartisan nonprofit organization Citizens Count, said some communities, such as Manchester, have even set aside specific times for residents to come fill out absentee ballots in person.

“They’re opening the town hall on a Saturday specifically to allow people to do this, basically in-person early voting in a way, because of course anybody is allowed to vote absentee during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “So that’s another option if you’re concerned.”

The last day to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 2 by 5 p.m. Granite Staters can also register to vote in person at their polling place on Election Day.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 

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