Ballot access issue simmers in Dalton
March 24, 2010
DALTON — Though town elections are over, much discussion still surrounds the selectman's race between incumbent Brian Hardy, Michele Rzepa, and Eric Moore in Dalton. Ballots cast in the vote were recounted on Monday at the town hall, confirming Selectman Hardy's March 10 victory. Ms. Rzepa, who lost to Selectman Hardy by only 17 votes, requested the recount.
"They made me feel as though as if they didn't do things right for Eric (Moore), why should I trust the process?" said Ms. Rzepa on her reasons for requesting a recount.
Ms. Rzepa refers to the discussion surrounding the town's decision to leave Mr. Moore off the ballot after he failed to get his name on the voter checklist – a master list of all the town's registered voters – before declaring his candidacy. Mr. Moore assumed he was a registered voter when he signed up to run for selectman. However, upon later examination by Assistant Town Clerk Jesse Wentworth, it was discovered this was not the case, and that it was not possible to do so in time to declare candidacy. Mr. Moore was notified that his name would not appear on the ballot. He registered as a voter at the district's special election primary for Coös Dist. 2 state representative and ran as a write-in candidate, receiving 39 votes.
Mr. Moore's situation was complicated by the candidacy of Andrea Glidden who ran unopposed for the position of supervisor of the checklist. Ms. Glidden was also an unregistered voter in the weeks leading up to the election. However, she was added to the voter checklist by Ms. Wentworth. Though Ms. Wentworth is the current assistant town clerk, she is the former supervisor of the checklist and is the only one who knows how to use the computer system that stores voter registration information. Ms. Wentworth, rather than Supervisor of the Checklist Doris Mitton, approved Ms. Glidden's application for registration.
"Because at that point we only had one supervisor of the checklist, I was approved with the state to be a super clerk which means I am sort of a part town clerk, part supervisor," said Ms. Wentworth, a position that Town Clerk Sandy York verified.
"Jesse had the distinction as what's known as a super clerk, so Jesse did have the authority. She was approved to by the state of NH," said Ms. York.
Still, some residents feel that Ms. Glidden's registration was done in violation of state laws stating that election filing must be done on specific days by specific people. Though Mr. Moore does not want to take any action that will negatively affect the town, he feels wronged by the town's treatment of the situation.
"Technically, I should have been on it," or both of candidates off the ballot, said Mr. Moore. Selectman Hardy agreed.
"My position was that, since there were some irregularities with the handling of another candidate, he needed to be on the ballot," said Selectman Hardy, mentioning that the town lawyer advised that both candidates be on the ballot. "Either all off or all on."
Town Moderator Jeff Woodburn, the one who first brought the issue to the attention of other town officials, feels strongly that this dispute is a call for a greater transparency to be brought to local government.
"This is not a game of trying to catch people making mistakes," said Mr. Woodburn. "This is a concerted effort to try to open up the process."