WARNER, N.H. — Schools were closed but polls were open on Tuesday as the state got hit with a Town Meeting Day snowstorm for the second year in a row.
Last year, nearly 80 communities postponed their annual elections due to the snow, creating widespread confusion over who has the authority to change the voting date. While the Legislature is still working to clarify the law, the secretary of state was adamant this year that towns can’t make the call. Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said he knew of only one town, Washington, that decided to postpone this time.
In Warner, about a dozen voters waited in line late Tuesday morning, some picking up cookies and whoopie pies from a bake sale after dropping their ballots into a wooden box.
“This year we had very explicit instructions from the secretary of state that no way could we cancel it, but it seems to be working fine,” town moderator Ray Martin said. “We’ve got a big rush now, early because the weather is forecast to be worse as the day goes on.”
After last year’s debacle, the Legislature approved a bill to ratify the results of voting in towns that delayed their elections. But lawmakers have yet to agree on a permanent fix that settles the power struggle between towns and the state.
The Senate last week passed a bill that would give the secretary of state the authority to postpone town elections if the governor has declared a state of emergency or if a town moderator requests a delay. If the secretary of state’s office doesn’t respond to a request within four hours, town officials could make the decision.
State Rep. Clyde Carson, a Democrat who was seeking re-election to Warner’s Board of Selectmen, said he thinks the scheduling decisions should be made locally.
“It’s local control, it’s a local election. And it’s also a safety issue,” he said. “We have a lot of seniors that feel uncomfortable coming out in this kind of weather, and their ability to vote is kind of pre-empted at this point.”
Ed Ordway, a candidate for selectman who was standing outside Town Hall for hours in the snow, said he agreed with going ahead with the elections despite the weather.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “Those who really want to change things aren’t going to let a little bit of snow or rain stop them.”