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Officials offer advice on voting by absentee ballot

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
July 30, 2020
STRATFORD — We recently caught up with Stratford's Town Moderator, Jamie Sayen, who shed some light on what voting absentee this fall will look like, and why in his opinion this is a safe option.

Sayen said, "As Stratford's town moderator since 2014, I am always gratified to observe my fellow citizens exercise their right and responsibility to vote. On these occasions, we affirm our faith in self-government and equality. I see smiles on voters' faces as they watch me deposit their ballot in our venerable wooden ballot box."

Sayen added, "The friendly banter and opportunity to check in briefly with friends and neighbors makes election days feel like a holiday. When first-time voters cast their ballot, our election officials give them a round of applause. Election Day affords us an opportunity to celebrate the common values that bind our communities together."

Sayen explains that election officers in Stratford have been working since spring time, to assure that in-person voting during a global pandemic will be as safe as possible. He relayed that the state is providing each town with essential supplies to protect election officials as well as voters.

He said, "We hope these measures and supplies will greatly reduce the health risks faced by election officials and voters."

He added, "North Country towns, such as Stratford, are blessed with talented, dedicated election officials who work faithfully to assure the right of every registered voter to cast a ballot. Our election officials comport themselves in a professional manner, with grace and good humor."

Sayen points out that many election officials are retirees who are in the vulnerable population, and are most at risk for severe complications due to Covid-19. He says that despite the risk, those officials are still willing to work the polls.

"Typically, a voter in Stratford spends about 15 minutes at the polling place. Stratford election officials are on duty before the polls open at 10am and remain to count the votes after polls close at 7pm. During a pandemic, a voter runs a risk of infection if they cast a ballot in-person. Election officials, who serve hundreds of voters in the course of the day, face a far greater risk of infection," explained Sayen.

With more people voting by absentee ballot, there will be less in person contact on election day.

"A person with no symptoms could be a carrier and spread the virus, unknowingly, voting by absentee greatly reduces the spread," he said.

Any registered voter in New Hampshire may request an absentee ballot from their town clerk, for both the primary election held on September 8, and the general election held on Nov. 3. Voters can request a ballot right now. The application for the ballot will remain on file in your respective Town Clerk's office until the state sends out official ballots. The state typically mails out those official ballots, four weeks prior to the election.

In order to request a ballot for both election, voters will need to fill out two absentee ballot requests, however they can be submitted at the same time. The state suggest voters return their ballots filled out, two weeks prior to the election dates. The only change to voting by absentee is that there is now an additional box titled 'Covid' to be checked as a reason for voting remotely.

When asked what should people know to assure their votes will be counted, Sayen explained the process, noting "I, as moderator, will do everything I can to make sure each ballot is counted. There are steps, by law that need to be followed."

When a voter receives a ballot package in the mail, there are two envelopes inside. You need to sign your name on the outside of the inner envelope for your vote to count. When the Town Clerk receives the envelope they make a note that it has been received, and the voter can call for confirmation. By law those envelopes cannot be opened until election day. On election day, the envelopes are then opened and deposited into the ballot box. If a person sends in an envelope that is not signed, they will be notified by their Town Clerk in order to correct it.

"This system has worked for over 100 years or more for regular absentee ballots. The only change is the new category, Covid," said Sayen.

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