By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Police officials across the state – plainclothed and in uniform – say they will be out at the polls all day Tuesday to ensure peace during this hotly charged election.
While Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said there is no “credible threat” at the polls, he will be overseeing efforts to ensure a smooth outcome. His staff will also fan out to ensure there is no voter intimidation.
Manchester police issued a statement that they have a coordinated plan in place to respond to any civil unrest, though there is no known threat. Plain-clothed officers will be watching.
“This is a coordinated effort involving our agency and others in the city and we are all working to anticipate issues that may arise,” said Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg. He said the election is expected to “elicit strong emotions” but police will be there to ensure “the safety and sanctity of our democracy,” according to a department Tweet.
In some cities, including New York City, businesses are boarding up store windows and bracing for the potential of violence but no such efforts have been seen in New Hampshire.
Conway police said they are planning for a normal number of officers to be assigned to the town’s polling place.
Londonderry, however, expects “a significant number of police personnel will be on-site all day to ensure overall safety” and expects there to be “SIGNIFICANT” traffic in and around the high school, according to its Facebook page.
In Nashua, police are planning to double the normal number of officers at each of the nine polling locations, according to Nashua Police Lt. Robert Giggi.
“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Giggi said, but he does anticipate an added number of voters. Two uniformed officers will be at each location and can help with traffic issues and any matters that arise, he said.
During the primary each polling location had one officer as is customary, he said.
Because New Hampshire allows for the concealed carry of guns, MacDonald and Gov. Chris Sununu confirmed that people can be armed at the polls.
And not wearing a face mask cannot be used as a reason to deny anyone the right to vote, officials said.
Moderators at polling stations in New Hampshire may require masks to be warned in the polling stations, but they must provide an alternative voting space for those who either cannot or refuse to wear masks, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
An Aug. 20 directive by the Attorney General’s Office said that “alternatives” must be provided. In some cases, windows or drive-up voting is allowed for those without masks.
On the Manchester Police Facebook page, the chief’s statement elicited more than 100 comments with many simply saying thank you to the police.
One writer said he considered taking his child to the polls but was concerned there would be “insecure white guys brandishing weapons” outside the youth center where he votes.
One person said she would not be wearing a mask because she was “voting for freedom” and that if she was turned away because of it, she would not vote. Another woman said it is a shame that voting has now to come having police officers having to be at the polls to keep people safe.
Sununu noted there “is a heightened sense in this election” and that he has recently talked to moderators and town clerks and believes that New Hampshire will continue to operate smooth and accurate elections.
The Attorney General’s Election hotline is 1-866-868-3703 or people can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sununu asked for patience and for people to wear masks.
“The lines could be a little longer,” despite the fact that many have already voted by absentee ballot.
Sununu urged people to wear masks, but noted “no one will be turned away and every vote will be counted.”