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Absentee ballot requests skewed toward Republican race


September 08, 2010
LAKES REGION — With the Primary coming up on Tuesday, town clerks throughout the Lakes Region are reporting that, as expected, the Republican races will bring most voters to the polls.

Voters will decide which candidates running for U.S. Senate, Congress, State Senate seats and the N.H. House of Representatives will be on the Republican and the Democrat tickets in November. Locally they will also be voting on positions within county boundaries also, including sheriffs, commissioners and treasurers.

"I always prepare for a big turnout because you just never know," said Sanbornton Town Clerk and Tax Collector Jane Goss.

Goss said last Wednesday she hadn't seen a lot of new voters register yet (the deadline for registration was Sept. 7), nor a lot of party affiliation changes, which had a deadline of June 1, but she has noticed an unusual trend in absentee ballots for this year's mid-term elections.

"So far I've had 12 requests for absentee ballots and it was very interesting to note they were all for the Republican ticket," Goss said.

In Meredith Town Clerk/Tax Collector Kerri Parker made a similar observation two weeks before the primary. As of the beginning of September she said she had handed out a total of 15 Republican ballots and only five Democrat ballots. Six of the Republican ballot requests had come from undeclared voters.

"Meredith generally has a fairly good turn out even for the primaries. It's a conscientious town as far as voting is concerned," she said.

Similar trends for absentee ballots have been seen across the Lakes Region. Gilford Town Clerk Denise Morrissette said she hasn't seen a "huge amount" of absentee ballots as compared to other elections, but those that she did get are telling: 28 requests were for Republican ballots and four were for Democrat ballots.

Northfield Town Clerk Cindy Caveney said it appeared to her Republicans wanted to make sure their voices were heard in the primary as she, too, has seen many more absentee ballot requests for the GOP than for the Democrats. She said she hadn't seen a lot of interest in the upcoming primary otherwise.

"People are generally too busy in the summer and don't focus on the fact that there is an election until it gets close. I've had only nine people come in to register to vote but we'll see what happens on the 14th," Caveney said.

Towns in New Hampshire now have same day registration and anyone who failed to register before the Sept. 7 deadline can do so at the polls on Primary Day.

Moultonboro said the town clerk's office has seen a lot of new voters registering for this summer, but Darcy Boyle said she suspected that was more likely due to the influx of people moving in and out of the lakeside community.

"People come in to register all the time because they are moving here to the lake. We're definitely seeing more Republicans asking for absentee ballots though," Boyle said.

Sheila Mohan from nearby Center Harbor said she attended a class on election law recently where she understood that statewide a big voter turnout is not expected. Cindy Reinartz from Tilton agreed, saying there's too many choices for some voters.

"People who do their homework come out for primaries but others are a bit overwhelmed. They don't know who many of the candidates are so they wait until November to vote," she said.

Sandwich Town Clerk Sharon Teel said her town, however, usually sees good turnouts, and she expected this primary to be no different.

"I keep statistics on our elections, and it seems we generally have one of higher percentages of turnouts, although the primaries don't draw as much of an interest as a presidential election," Teel said.

While the state Democrat headquarters in Concord did not respond with a comment about the upcoming primary, the Republican party's communications director Ryan Williams said he is not at all surprised to hear of the interest shown by Republican voters in the area.

"The number of requests for absentee ballots by our voters in the Lakes Region is consistent with the energy and enthusiasm we're seeing across the state," Williams said.

Volunteers for the party in this midterm election are at record numbers, he said, and he believes Jeb Bradley's 2009 special election victory for a vacant seat in the state senate has brought a surge to the Republicans of New Hampshire. Williams said he feels people are concerned and looking to make positive changes at the state and national level.

"We're very optimistic about the upcoming elections. We're going to keep our foot on the gas right into November," he said.

Absentee ballots are only counted in the voting process if received by the day of the election. Belmont Town Clerk Cynthia DeRoy said she is seeing a rise in interest in her town, with more new voters come in to register than she had expected. Absentee ballot requests were low but DeRoy said she has sent them to military people from town as well a few voters locally who will be out of town that day.

"It's a matter of whether or not they mail them back in time now," DeRoy said.

Polls in most towns throughout the state will open at 7 a.m. on Sept. 14 and close at 7 p.m. Voters are advised to check their town's website for specific times and polling locations.

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