Voting officials brace for big day
Towns work toward making process as smooth as possible
With talk of rigged elections and vigilante poll watchers, the presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, promises to be unusual – and Milford Town Moderator Peter Basiliere says the town is well prepared.
There will be more election workers this year to deal with an expected 70-75 percent turnout, he said, judging from the 700 absentee ballots filed with Town Clerk Joan Dargie by Oct. 27, which he said is a record.
Basiliere, who will oversee his third presidential election, said he is doing everything possible to make voting as easy and quick as possible.
Normally, there are eight or 10 volunteers at the check-in booths. On Nov. 8, there will be 14.
In addition to the town clerk, her assistant and the supervisors of the checklist, there will be 25 people each on three shifts – 75 volunteers altogether.
Those volunteers will help pass out ballots. Open voting booths for voters, ask people if they need to register and tell those who don’t have photo identification where to sign an affidavit.
A training session for volunteers was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Basiliere says he is offended by talk of a "rigged" election from Republican candidate Donald Trump.
"In New Hampshire, we take great pride in having procedures in place so that every registered voter can vote, and vote once," he said. "It is an insult to election workers. … We are taking this very seriously. There are a lot of people willing to help out."
Selectmen will be at the polls, as required by law, as well as one official representative each for the Republican and Democratic parties.
The party representatives are responsible for notifying the secretary of state if they observe anything questionable, Basiliere said. If there are really long lines, for example, they would bring the problem to his attention.
While Trump has called for poll watchers, Basiliere said that though the polling site is a public building, unauthorized people can’t go beyond the rail to the area where voting takes place. "They can watch," he said. "My only potential issue is that if the polling place is really crowded, I might have to ask people to move." Milford Police Chief Michael Viola is expected to have an extra officer in the middle school parking lot to minimize traffic tie-ups.
In Mont Vernon, Town Moderator David Sturm is also expecting a large turnout. The number of absentee ballots that are coming in will be a challenge, he said, because of the timeconsuming procedures to verify them: Each absentee ballot is announced out loud and signatures are compared. That’s usually done during slow periods at the polling place, but he doesn’t anticipate any slow periods Tuesday.
"I’m very fortunate our town clerk does a superb job handling elections," said Sturm, who said he doesn’t expect significant lines at the voting booths.
And his small town probably isn’t on the radar screen, he said, for those suspecting election shenanigans. "My job is to see the election comes off cleanly and fairly," Sturm said.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.