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Impact of absentee voting in Durham


As the country continues to battle against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, voters are going to need to make a choice on whether they want to vote in person or absentee before Nov. 3. 

Some cities and towns across the country have already begun early voting, and tens of millions of mail-in and absentee ballots have been sent out so far, but there are still obstacles and questions surrounding the process. 

New Hampshire does not allow early voting, however, in New Hampshire a registered voter can request an absentee ballot due to being away from their hometown on Election Day, observance of a religious holiday, or if they have a physical disability. However, this year due to COVID-19, a registered voter can sign an affidavit and request an absentee ballot citing the pandemic as the reason for not being able to make the polls. 

The confusion and frustration surrounding this atypical way to vote has made its way to the front steps of Durham Town Clerk Lorrie Pitt. 

“We’ve had a couple phone calls from people who use a marker [to fill out their ballot] and it would bleed through, and we’ve had people coming in and requesting a ballot even though they are already getting one,” Pitt said, resulting in some voters having to try and get a new ballot in some cases, which can complicate matters further. 

“So, I’m putting in the [next] town newsletter ‘Please use a pen, do not use a marker.’” 

The extra steps did not deter many voters who chose to stay home and vote absentee instead of going to the polls this year.  

“At the end of [the day] on Wednesday [September 31], we still had 2,542 requests for absentee ballots,” Pitt said. 

In 2016, Durham had only processed 770 absentee ballots, about 30% of the 2020 total. 

The volume of ballots going through the mail also puts extra strain on the town postal service. However, Pitt says they have been remaining positive about the situation. 

“We sent out 2,400 ballots on Monday [September 29], and they got them all delivered in two days,” Pitt stated. 

She still expects Election Day itself to be busy, however, with at least 3,000 people in attendance. 

Photo Courtesy of Steve Tedeschi

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