The secretary of state will have the authority to postpone and reschedule local elections under extreme weather conditions, according to proposed legislation. The bill is designed to address the confusion that arose last March, when an Election Day nor’easter threw elections for municipal officials and local ballot questions into chaos. A House-Senate committee created to resolve conflicts that surfaced last March unanimously agreed to draft a bill that settles the matter in a way more satisfactory to the secretary of state than to the N.H. Municipal Association. According to draft language endorsed by the five-member committee on Monday, the secretary of state can postpone local or school district elections if he believes that an emergency exists, if the governor has declared a state of emergency, or if a town moderator requests such a delay based on an “extreme weather emergency or imminent serious threat to public health and safety.”
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, had argued throughout the committee deliberations to give local officials the right to reschedule local elections at their own discretion, but in the end endorsed the compromise.
In March, Secretary of State Bill Gardner took the position that there was no provision whatsoever for postponing and rescheduling an election.
“I obviously wanted the local control, but I think as a practical matter the local officials will be listened to,” Woodburn said. “I can’t imagine the secretary of state saying ’No’ if a town has a legitimate reason for wanting to postpone.”