CITIZEN VOICES® Absentee ballots for all?

Jan 24, 2019

Rep. Katherine Rogers (D-Concord) is sponsoring a 2019 bill that would allow all voters to vote by absentee ballot.  

Roughly half of all states allow this “no-excuse absentee voting.”

Arguments for, against absentee voting

Supporters of Rogers’ bill argue that it will increase voter turnout by making it more convenient for voters who have trouble getting to the polls.

In 2017 former Rep. Andrew White wrote in favor of no-excuse absentee voting

“The ability to cast a ballot in a New Hampshire election should not depend on your occupation, family situation, financial means, or transportation; it should be convenient and accessible to everyone and this bill accomplishes just that.”

Opponents note that expanding absentee voting will increase labor and postage costs for towns and cities, which are responsible for processing absentee ballots.

Other opponents argue that absentee ballots present more opportunity for voter fraud.  In 2018 the New Hampshire Attorney General charged four people with voter fraud; three of the four cast absentee ballots in one state and voted in-person in another.

Another option

Rep. Sherry Frost (D-Dover)  is also sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would create a right to vote by absentee ballot.

A constitutional amendment needs a three-fifths majority to pass the House and Senate.  After that, two-thirds of voters must approve the amendment on the next general election ballot.

The New Hampshire secretary of state says allowing no-excuse absentee voting might violate the New Hampshire Constitution, which only addresses absentee voting for people who “are absent from the city or town of which they are inhabitants, or who by reason of physical disability are unable to vote in person.”  Therefore, a constitutional amendment would be less likely to face a challenge in the courts than a simple law change.  

Others argue the constitutional language about absentee voting is only a minimum requirement for what the state must offer regarding absentee ballots, so a constitutional change is not necessary to allow no-excuse absentee voting.

Should New Hampshire allow all voters to vote by absentee ballot, whether or not they will be out of town on Election Day?

Discussion held on Citizens Count website and Facebook page January 24, 2019

152 citizens responded99 citizens were opposed to allowing all voters to vote by absentee ballot37 citizens were in favor of allowing all voters to vote by absentee ballot16 citizens commented on related questions or issues

What Participants Said

No: 99 people were opposed to allowing all voters to vote by absentee ballot, regardless of whether they would be out of town on Election Day.

  • “Too much room for abuse and voter fraud.  Do your civic duty, get off your couch, go to town and vote.”
  • “Absentee ballots should only be for people who will be out of state or physically impaired enough that they cannot go out to vote. Society is too lethargic already; let's not encourage a further slide down that slope, eh?”
  • “No, too much room for abuse. If voting is not your priority, maybe you shouldn't!”

Yes: 37 people were in favor of allowing all voters to vote by absentee ballot, regardless of whether they would be out of town on Election Day.

  • “Yes, a lot of people cannot make it to the polls on election day. This would be easier. I think it should be done by mail for everyone. The state could issue numbers for eligible voters like they do for IRS tax returns. Wouldn't this way alleviate fraud and increase votes? Never understood why it's not done this way.”
  • “Voting in person is a serious inconvenience for many. Democracy is strengthened when all eligible voters cast a ballot. And there is zero credible evidence of voter fraud. Let's make NH a beacon of voter participation.”
  • “If you can't skip or be late for work or can't pay for child care to vote, you should still be able to vote.”

Other: 16 citizens addressed their comments to related questions and issues.
These included:

  • Track all ballots: “I believe that the ballot should be serialized that way we can see if there's any duplicates or any fraudulent ones.”
  • No proof of widespread fraud: “In Pelham we have a paper trail.  When politicians accused Pelham of having ‘busloads’ of fraudulent voters roll in from Massachusetts, Pelham had hard evidence to the contrary.  You only need to access the paper trail to deter or address fraud.”
  • Fear of corruption at polls: “How about NH changes out the people who are there every voting cycle to take care of the voting!  Maybe everyone would have their vote count!”

*Editor selection of actual participant quotes.

See additional comments on this question from Facebook

Related Bill

HB 611 (2019)
Bill Status: Vetoed by Governor
Hearing date: Apr 24, 2019

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