Bill Details - HB556 (2019)

HB 556 - AS AMENDED BY THE HOUSE

 

7Mar2019... 0453h

2019 SESSION

19-0459

11/05

 

HOUSE BILL 556

 

AN ACT allowing municipalities to process absentee ballots prior to election day.

 

SPONSORS: Rep. Bergeron, Hills. 29; Rep. Indruk, Hills. 34; Sen. Levesque, Dist 12

 

COMMITTEE: Election Law

 

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ANALYSIS

 

This bill permits municipalities to process, but not count, absentee ballots prior to election day.

 

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

7Mar2019... 0453h 19-0459

11/05

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nineteen

 

AN ACT allowing municipalities to process absentee ballots prior to election day.

 

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

 

1  Election Procedure; Processing Absentee Ballots; Death of a Voter.  Amend RSA 659:48 to read as follows:

659:48  Death of a Voter.  If the officers charged with the duty of processing absentee ballots are cognizant of the fact that the voter has died prior to the time that absentee ballots are to begin being processed in accordance with RSA 659:55-a, or prior to the opening of the polls, they shall not open the envelope containing the absentee ballot.

2  Election Procedure; Processing Absentee Ballots.  Amend RSA 659:49 to read as follows:

659:49  Processing Absentee Ballots.

I.  Processing of previously received absentee ballots other than those partially processed in accordance with RSA 659:55-a shall begin at 1:00 p.m. unless a different time, that is no earlier than 2 hours after the opening of the polls, is posted and announced in accordance with paragraph II.  The processing of the absentee ballots shall not unnecessarily interfere with normal voting procedures, nor shall the polls be closed at any time for the processing of such ballots during normal polling hours.  Absentee ballots which are received after the start time for processing absentee ballots and prior to 5:00 p.m. on the day of the election shall be processed as soon after receipt as possible.  Under no circumstances shall absentee ballots be counted prior to the closing of the polls.

II.  Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I, upon the written challenges of 10 or more voters who are present at the polls no later than 1:00 p.m., the moderator shall postpone the processing of all absentee ballots, other than those partially processed in accordance with RSA 659:55-a, until after the polls close and prior to the counting of all ballots cast in the election.  The moderator, or his or her designee, shall post the time at which the processing of absentee ballots shall begin at the polling place and one other public location at least 24 hours before the polls open.  In addition, when the polls open the moderator shall announce the time at which the processing of absentee ballots shall begin.

3  Election Procedure; Processing Absentee Ballots; Opening Envelope, Depositing Ballot.  Amend RSA 659:52 to read as follows:

659:52  Opening Envelope; Depositing Ballot.  If the absentee ballot is not challenged, the moderator shall, after announcing the name of the voter, open the envelope containing the ballot so the affidavit is not destroyed.  The moderator shall then take the ballot out of the envelope without unfolding the ballot or without permitting the ballot to be examined, and he or she shall preserve the affidavit with the ballots cast at the election as provided in RSA 659:101.  The moderator shall then have a checkmark placed beside the name of the absentee voter on the checklist and write therewith the letters "A.V." in red ink and shall [then deposit the ballot in the ballot box.] then, as appropriate:

I.  For absentee ballots processed on election day, deposit the ballot in the ballot box.

II.  On a day that absentee ballots are processed in accordance with RSA 659:55-a, without unfolding the ballot or without permitting the ballot to be examined, place it in a container provided by the secretary of state as required by RSA 659:97.  The moderator or his or her designee shall then seal such container with the sealer provided by the secretary of state.  The moderator or his or her designee shall then enter in the appropriate blank space on such sealer on each container the number of absentee ballots in such container and shall endorse in the appropriate place on such sealer a certificate in the following form:  "Enclosed are processed absentee ballots for the state election in the town of ______ (or in ward ____ in the city of _________________) to be held on _________, 20____, Box _____ of _____, to be delivered to the polling place in accordance with RSA 659:47, and which shall be deposited in the ballot box after the polls have opened on election day," provided that absentee ballot affidavits, application forms, and any absentee ballots subject to RSA 659:53 shall be placed in a separate container provided by the secretary of state as required by RSA 659:97, and the moderator or his or her designee shall seal such container with the sealer provided by the secretary of state as required by RSA 659:97.

4  New Sections; Election Procedure; Processing Absentee Ballots; Partial Processing of Absentee Ballots Prior to an Election.  Amend RSA 659 by inserting after section 55 the following new sections:

659:55-a  Partial Processing of Absentee Ballots Prior to an Election.

I.  The moderator, or his or her designee, may begin the processing of absentee ballots prior to the opening of the polls provided that the clerk shall post, in an appropriate place and prior to election day, notice of the time and place of the processing.  Such notice shall be posted in 2 appropriate places, one of which may be the public body's Internet website, if such exists, or shall be printed in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town at least 48 hours, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, prior to such meeting.  The partial processing of absentee ballots prior to an election shall not occur more than 7 days prior to the date of the election nor prior to the certification of the checklist by the supervisors of the checklist in accordance with RSA 654:29.  The moderator shall be assisted by at least 3 other election officers as defined under RSA 652:14.  Under no circumstances shall absentee ballots be counted prior to the opening of the polls.

II.  Once notice of the processing has been posted, all absentee ballots received by the end of the day preceding the posted time for the meeting shall be partially processed.  Only one session for the partial processing of absentee ballots may be scheduled prior to an election.

III.  Except as otherwise provided, the moderator, or his or her designee, shall adhere to the procedures detailed in RSA 659:49-b, RSA 659:50, RSA 659:51, RSA 659:52, RSA 659:53, RSA 659:54, RSA 659:54-a, RSA 666:4, and RSA 666:5.

659:55-b  Preparation of Site for Processing Absentee Ballots Prior to an Election.

I.  A guardrail shall be constructed and placed so that only the checklists, absentee ballot materials, election officials, and proper supplies and conveniences are inside such rail.  No person other than the election officers shall be permitted within the guardrail except by the authority of the election officers and, then, only for the purpose of keeping order and enforcing the law.

II.  Challengers appointed by a party committee or the attorney general shall be assigned by the moderator or other election officer presiding over the processing of absentee ballots prior to an election to such position as will enable the challenger to see and hear each voter’s name as it is announced pursuant to RSA 666:4 and RSA 666:5.

III.  Any other person shall have a right, as safety, welfare, and rights of voters permit, to observe the partial processing of absentee ballots as provided herein, provided however, that observers may not be positioned within 4 feet of the voter checklist table.  

5  Election Procedure; Preservation of Ballots and Other Election Materials; Preservation of Absentee Voting Materials and Election Day Affidavits.  Amend RSA 659:101 to read as follows:

659:101  Preservation of Absentee Voting Materials and Election Day Affidavits.  The absentee ballot affidavits and application forms processed by the moderator as provided in RSA 659:50 or RSA 659:55-a, the absentee ballots challenged and rejected as provided in RSA 659:51 and RSA 659:53, and the qualified voter affidavits as provided in RSA 654:12 and any other documentary proof of qualifications retained by the town or city clerk, the supervisors of the checklist, or other election official shall be preserved in accordance with RSA 33-A:3-a.  Qualified voter and voter registration affidavits shall be retained for the period set forth in RSA 33-A:3-a, and other materials may be destroyed after the election is settled and all appeals have expired or one year after the election, whichever is longer.

6  New Paragraph; Access to Governmental Records and Meetings; Exemptions.  Amend RSA 91-A:5 by inserting after paragraph X the following new paragraph:

XI.  Once a voter checklist has been marked pursuant to RSA 659:55-a, such checklist shall not be available for public inspection at any time prior to the close of the polls on election day without a court order.

7  Effective Date.  This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.

Docket

Date Status
Jan. 3, 2019 Introduced 01/03/2019 and referred to Election Law HJ 3 P. 19
Jan. 29, 2019 Public Hearing: 01/29/2019 11:00 am LOB 308
Feb. 12, 2019 Executive Session: 02/12/2019 11:00 am LOB 308
March 7, 2019 Majority Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment # 2019-0453h for 03/07/2019 (Vote 12-8; RC) HC 14 P. 10
Majority Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment # 2019-0453h (Vote 12-8; RC)
Minority Committee Report: Inexpedient to Legislate
March 7, 2019 Amendment # 2019-0453h: AA VV 03/07/2019
March 7, 2019 Ought to Pass with Amendment 2019-0453h: MA VV 03/07/2019
March 14, 2019 Introduced 03/14/2019 and Referred to Election Law and Municipal Affairs; SJ 9

Action Dates

Date Body Type
Jan. 29, 2019 House Hearing
Feb. 12, 2019 House Exec Session
House Floor Vote
March 7, 2019 House Floor Vote

Bill Text Revisions

HB556 Revision: 4829 Date: Jan. 15, 2019, 1:09 p.m.
HB556 Revision: 5470 Date: March 7, 2019, 2:56 p.m.