SB537 (2024) Detail

Allowing the processing of absentee ballots.


SB 537-FN - AS AMENDED BY THE SENATE

 

04/05/2024   1238s

2024 SESSION

24-3084

08/10

 

SENATE BILL 537-FN

 

AN ACT allowing the processing of absentee ballots.

 

SPONSORS: Sen. Soucy, Dist 18; Sen. Perkins Kwoka, Dist 21; Rep. Brennan, Merr. 9; Rep. Lane, Merr. 16

 

COMMITTEE: Election Law and Municipal Affairs

 

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AMENDED ANALYSIS

 

This bill:

 

I.  Allows for the preprocessing of absentee ballots.

 

II.  Removes the requirement that absentee ballots be placed in outer envelopes unless such ballots are mailed to town or city clerks.  The bill also allows clerks to open outer envelopes to allow applicants time to cure defects.

 

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Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

04/05/2024   1238s 24-3084

08/10

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twenty Four

 

AN ACT allowing the processing of absentee ballots.

 

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

 

1  Absentee Voting; Procedure by Clerk.  Amend RSA 657:18 to read as follows:

657:18 Procedure by Clerk. Upon receipt of an outer envelope purporting to contain an official absentee voting ballot, the clerk of the city or town shall, subject to RSA 657:16, attach thereto the application for an absentee ballot submitted by said voter and record the information pursuant to RSA 657:15.  All such envelopes shall be preserved unopened until election day except as provided by RSA 659:49-b.

2  Opening Absentee Ballot Outer Envelopes.  RSA 659:49-b is repealed and reenacted to read as follows:

659:49-b  Opening Absentee Ballot Outer Envelopes.

The outer Envelopes of absentee ballots may be opened by:

I.  The town or city clerk or their designee on dates specified by the clerk.  The clerk shall schedule at least 2 dates to open absentee ballot outer envelopes in the 3 weeks prior to the election.  Clerk shall post, at least 5 days prior to the dates in an appropriate public place a notice of the time and place of the opening of the outer envelopes.  After the outer envelope has been opened, the affidavit envelope shall be examined for errors that could cause the absentee ballot to be rejected.  If errors are found, the clerk shall use information such as phone number or email address to contact the voter and notify them of the error and posable corrective actions.  Affidavit envelopes shall be secured until it is processed pursuant to RSA 659:50 or RSA 659:55-a.

II.  The moderator or the moderator’s designee during partial processing of absentee ballots prior to an election as authorized in RSA 659:55-a.  After the outer envelope has been opened, the affidavit on the inner envelope shall be examined, the voter's name shall be announced, an opportunity for a challenge of the ballot shall be given.  Information on the checklist for the absentee voter may be highlighted to help facilitate processing of the ballot on election day.  If correctable affidavit errors are found, the clerk shall use information such as phone number or email address to contact the voter and notify them of the error and posable corrective actions.  Affidavit envelopes shall be secured until it is processed pursuant to RSA 659:50.

III.  The moderator or the moderator’s designee may open absentee ballot outer envelopes on election day at any time after the opening of the polls.  Affidavit envelopes shall be secured until it is processed pursuant to RSA 659:50.

3  New Section; Partial Processing of Absentee Ballots Prior to an Election.  Amend RSA 659 by inserting after section 55-a the following new section:

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, in accordance with RSA 659:49-b, provided that the clerk shall post, at least 5 days prior to processing, in an appropriate public place and prior to election day, notice of the time and place of the processing.  If the moderator chooses to do so it shall be posted in 2 appropriate public places, one of which shall 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.  A copy of the notice shall be provided to the secretary of state.  The partial processing of absentee ballots prior to an election shall occur on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Monday prior to the date of the election after the posting of the checklist.  The moderator shall be assisted by at least 3 other election officers as defined under RSA 652:14.  Members of the general public may observe this process.  Under no circumstances shall absentee ballots be counted prior to the closing of the polls.

II.  Once notice of the processing has been posted, all absentee ballots received 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.

4  Absentee Ballots and Related Materials; Outer Envelopes.  Amend RSA 657:7, II and III to read as follows:

II.  Affidavit envelopes of sufficient size to contain the ballots on which shall be printed the following:

YOUR COMPLETED ABSENTEE BALLOT MUST BE SEALED IN THIS ENVELOPE

I do hereby certify under the penalties for voting fraud set forth below that:

I am a voter in the city or town of _______________, New Hampshire.

One of the following applies to me:

1)  I will be absent on election day. Absence includes:

a)  I will be out-of-town on election day.

b)  I will be unable to vote in person because I will be working.

c)  I will be unable to vote in person because I will be caring for children or infirm adults, with or without compensation.

d)  I am voting absentee on the Monday immediately before the election, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning, blizzard warning, or ice storm warning that applies to my town/ward, and I have concerns for traveling in the storm.

2)  I am unable to vote in person due to disability.

3)  I am unable to vote in person due to observance of a religious commitment, which prevents me from voting in person.

4)  I am confined to a penal institution for a misdemeanor or while awaiting trial.

I have carefully read or had read to me the absentee voting instructions.  I personally marked the absentee ballot enclosed in this envelope or, due to a disability, I had assistance in marking the absentee ballot.

Voter Signature_________________

Printed Name _________________

Voter Address__________________

A person assisting a voter with a disability shall sign this statement on this envelope acknowledging the assistance.

I attest that I assisted (print voter name) ____________________ because the voter is a person with a disability.  I marked the ballot and/or this form as instructed by the voter.

In accordance with RSA 659:34, the penalty for knowingly or purposefully providing false information when registering to vote or voting is a class A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of imprisonment not to exceed one year and a fine not to exceed $2,000.  Fraudulently registering to vote or voting is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000.

III.  Return envelopes of size sufficient to contain the preceding envelope addressed to the town and city clerks of the state in which absentee voters shall return their ballots, if such ballots are returned by mail.  On the envelopes shall be printed "Enclosed is the ballot of an absentee voter" and, at the top thereof, 4 blank spaces with the words "Name, Voting Address, Ward, Town or City" appropriately printed thereon.  Absentee ballots returned to town or city clerks in person shall not be required to be placed in such outer envelopes.

5  Absentee Voting; Refusal to Certify; Procedure.  Amend RSA 657:16 to read as follows:

657:16  Refusal to Certify; Procedure.  If he or she refuses to certify the application, the town or city clerk shall notify the applicant in writing within 7 days to that effect.  The town or city clerk shall provide the applicant with an absentee ballot and a notice that the ballot will not be counted unless the applicant submits the documents necessary to complete an absentee registration.  The applicant shall be advised in writing what documents, if any, have been received in proper form and which the applicant must submit.  If the applicant submits such documents via mail, he or she shall do so by enclosing them in the outer envelope that contains the absentee ballot envelope.  An applicant hand delivering such documents need not enclose them in the outer envelope.  The town or city clerk shall mark the absentee ballot application, the absentee ballot affidavit, and the outer envelope, if applicable, with the words "Not Registered."  Upon receipt of [an] a mailed outer envelope marked "Not Registered," the clerk shall open the outer envelope.  If the applicant returns the required documents with the absentee ballot by the date set for correcting the checklist under RSA 654:27 and RSA 654:28, the town or city clerk shall forward the registration forms to the supervisors of the checklist and, if the applicant is found to be qualified, the applicant shall be registered and his or her absentee ballot shall be processed in the same manner as the absentee ballot of a previously registered voter.  All documents received after the deadline for correcting the checklist under RSA 654:27 and RSA 654:28 shall be processed as election day registrations under RSA 654:7-a.  If the ballot is returned without the required documents in proper form, the ballot shall be marked in the manner set forth by law for successfully challenged absentee ballots and preserved in accordance with RSA 33-A:3-a.  The clerk shall preserve the application of any applicant who is not registered as a voter until the time set by law for the destruction of the ballots after the election at which time the application shall be destroyed.  Any justice of the superior court has jurisdiction in equity upon such notice as he or she may order to require that the name of the person making application for an absentee ballot be placed upon the checklist or registered as a member of any party and be sent an absentee ballot.

6  Absentee Voting; Procedure by Voter.  Amend RSA 657:17, I to read as follows:

I.  After marking the ballot, the voter or the person assisting a blind voter or voter with a disability who is unable to mark his or her ballot shall enclose and seal the same in an inner envelope.  The voter shall execute the affidavit on the envelope.  A person assisting a blind voter or voter with a disability who needs assistance executing the affidavit shall sign a statement on the affidavit envelope acknowledging the assistance.  If the voter or the person assisting the blind voter or voter with a disability who needs assistance is mailing the absentee ballot to the town or city clerk, the voter or the person assisting the blind voter or voter with a disability shall enclose and seal the inner envelope with the affidavit in an outer envelope.  The voter or the person assisting a blind voter or voter with a disability shall then endorse on the outer envelope the voter's name, address, and voting place.  The absentee ballot shall be delivered to the city or town clerk from whom it was received in one of the following ways:

(a)  The voter or the voter's delivery agent may personally deliver the envelope, in which case the voter or the voter's delivery agent need not enclose the affidavit envelope in the outer envelope; or

(b)  The voter or the person assisting the blind voter or voter with a disability may mail the ballot and affidavit envelope within the outer envelope to the city or town clerk, with postage affixed.

7  Processing Absentee Ballots.  Amend the introductory paragraph in RSA 659:50, I to read as follows:

I.  The moderator shall begin processing absentee ballots by clearly announcing that he or she is about to [open the envelopes] process the absentee ballots which were delivered to him or her.  The moderator shall then [remove the envelope containing the ballots of each absentee voter and], for those absentee ballots where the absentee voter has not been verified by the clerk as provided in RSA 657:17-a, [shall] compare the signature on the affidavit with the signature on the application for the ballot.  If:

8  Effective Date.

I.  Sections 1-3 of this act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.

II.  The remainder of this act shall take effect upon its passage.

 

LBA

24-3084

Amended 4/17/24

 

SB 537-FN- FISCAL NOTE

AS AMENDED BY THE SENATE (AMENDMENT #2024-1238s)

 

AN ACT allowing the processing of absentee ballots.

 

FISCAL IMPACT: [   ] State [   ] County [   ] Local [ X ] None

 

METHODOLOGY:

The Office of Legislative Budget Assistant states this bill, as amended by the Senate, has no fiscal impact on state, county and local expenditures or revenue.

 

 

AGENCIES CONTACTED:

Department of State and New Hampshire Municipal Association

 

Amendments

Date Amendment
March 20, 2024 2024-1238s

Links


Date Body Type
Feb. 13, 2024 Senate Hearing
April 4, 2024 Senate Floor Vote

Bill Text Revisions

SB537 Revision: 41540 Date: April 17, 2024, 9:38 a.m.
SB537 Revision: 41271 Date: March 20, 2024, 9:07 a.m.
SB537 Revision: 40369 Date: Dec. 14, 2023, 8:33 a.m.

Docket


April 10, 2024: Introduced (in recess of) 03/28/2024 and referred to Election Law HJ 11


April 5, 2024: Ought to Pass with Amendment 2024-1238s, MA, VV; OT3rdg; 04/05/2024; SJ 8


April 5, 2024: Committee Amendment # 2024-1238s, AA, VV; 04/05/2024; SJ 8


March 20, 2024: Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment # 2024-1238s, 04/05/2024; Vote 5-0; CC; SC 13


Feb. 6, 2024: Hearing: 02/13/2024, Room 103, LOB, 09:45 am; SC 7


Dec. 14, 2023: To Be Introduced 01/03/2024 and Referred to Election Law and Municipal Affairs; SJ 1