ELECTION LAW

House Defeats Bill Establishing Complex Procedure For Rescheduling Town Elections

The House of Representatives voted 225-118 to reject the committee of conference report on SB 438, legislation which would establish a procedure for the rescheduling of town elections due to weather emergency. The House vote kills the bill for the remainder of the 2018 session.

This bill was a result of the confusion that occurred when a nor’easter hit New Hampshire on Town Meeting Day in 2017, and moderators throughout the state were given conflicting advice regarding their authority to reschedule their town’s election due to weather emergency. Despite broad acknowledgement that a clear procedure needed to be developed, the House and Senate took vastly different approaches to resolve the issue.

The Senate proposed a centralized process for postponement, requiring local moderators to obtain the permission of the Secretary of State in Concord. The House, after hearing extensive testimony from those involved in local elections, proposed a straightforward process keeping the decision to postpone town elections with the moderator and local governing body.
“For some reason, Republican leadership in the House was adamant that the decision to postpone town elections be made in Concord, and insisted on moving forward with the Senate proposal,” according to House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook).