Despite the heated rhetoric regarding poll watching during this election season, poll watchers are a time-honored and important part of protecting the integrity of elections. In New Hampshire, where the integrity of elections is threatened by drive-by voting, procedures to monitor the polls are especially critical. Like most states, New Hampshire has detailed statutory requirements and provisions regarding poll watchers and voter challenges:
Turns out there are two different ways one could be monitoring the voting process during an election.
Brian Buonamano, assistant attorney general, said anyone who wishes to observe an election may do so. According to state law, all one has to do to observe is to show up and sit or stand at least five feet away from the voter registration table, so as not to overhear or see the exchange of nonpublic information between an applicant and the election official. Seating is often provided for people who wish to do so, and the ballot clerk is required to announce the name of the voter twice, along with their registered address, so that anyone could hear it.
A vote challenger, however, is different.
A different section of state law says anyone who wishes to challenge a vote must be either registered in the town or ward in which the election is held, an election official, a challenger appointed by a political committee, or a challenger appointed by the attorney general, but those are more rare, Buonamano said.
“During any general election, you’re going to see more election observers and challengers, and that’s perfectly legal,” he said. “It’s nothing to be alarmed or concerned about. Anyone is entitled to observe an election, but someone who wants to be a challenger has to be empowered to do so.”
And if a challenger sees what they view as a voter fraud, that’s also regulated by statute, Buonamano said. A challenge has to be given in writing to the moderator to determine if the ballot is “well grounded.” If the challenge is deemed valid, the vote cannot be received until the voter signs and gives the moderator an affidavit that states they are who they say they are. The moderator has to determine if the vote is legitimate before the voter can proceed.
No voter or appointed challenger can challenge a person’s qualifications to be a voter at the election day voter registration table, according to state law.