InDepthNH.org reporter Paula Tracy wearing one of the “I Voted” stickers created by fourth graders in New Hampshire.
By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
Throughout the state, voters – particularly undeclared voters – were getting out to the polls in the first-in-the nation primary Tuesday, with state election officials responding to requests for more ballots in some cases.
In Holderness, Moderator Dan Rossner said it was busy at 12:30 p.m. and there was a line when the polls opened at 8 a.m.
“I can tell you we have already called down to the state to request additional ballots for one party just because we are going through them quite briskly,” he said. “I’ve been surprised at how brisk it is. A lot of undeclared voters chose a party, of course.”
This would indicate a likely good showing for former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who was polling strongly with the more than 344,000 registered voters who until voting day, did not choose a party.
Donald Trump, the former president, was expected to do well with Republican voters and may be drawing from some of the Independent pool while on the Democratic side, volunteers were working outside precincts on a write-in campaign for the incumbent President Joe Biden.
Anna Sventek, spokesman for the Secretary of State Dave Scanlan, said at about 2 p.m. that she could confirm several communities have requested extra Republican ballots.
Scanlan projected a record turnout for Republicans while fewer than a third of the registered Democrats were expected to vote.
Mike Garrity, spokesman for the Department of Justice said the Election Law Unit was out across the state looking for any issues and irregularities but at 3 p.m. said “so far, I don’t have anything major to report.
“We are seeing what we would categorize as an average amount of calls (for a Primary Election) to our Election Law Unit hotline: 1-866-868-3703.
“We have received a few reports of people entering polling places while still wearing clothing or hats with the names of candidates (Once the moderator notices or is informed about a complaint, they instruct the voter to remove or cover up the electioneering material).
“We have heard from people upset that they can’t vote in one party because they are registered as being a member of the opposite party and didn’t switch their registration in time, etc.
“That’s the latest,” Garrity said.
Voting in New Hampshire began at the stroke of midnight when all six voters in Dixville cast ballots and the results were read following the closure of the polls in nine minutes with all ballots cast for Nikki Haley.
All six got a chance to have a private meeting with the candidate Jan. 16 prior to a North Country rally she held at the Mount Washington Hotel.
Val Maxwell of Dixville, a Republican who is an administrative assistant for The Balsams, said she was thrilled to vote for Haley after sitting out the last primary.
“We invited her up here but her schedule didn’t allow it, so we went to the Mount Washington. We had five minutes with her,” Maxwell said. “She was very personable…I liked what she had to say. I could have listened to her all night,” she said, noting she and her husband stayed to listen to the rally in a snowstorm.
Maxwell said though she did not know how her other residents would vote at midnight, Tuesday, she said she was thrilled that it was unanimous and sent a message out as the first voters.
“I loved my vote,” she said. “Hopefully we are sending a massive message.”
She said the vote was “nerve wracking” with reporters from all over the world descending on the snowbound former resort in Dixville.
About 10 hours later in Lancaster, a steady stream of voters were making it to the polls where not only were voters casting ballots for a Presidential nominee in the two respective parties but to fill a House of Representatives seat vacated by Troy Merner, a Republican who is accused of moving out of his district and voting for an entire year in the closely divided chamber. He was also a selectman but resigned.
Sean C. Durkin, a Republican, is vying for the seat against Democrat Cathleen A. Fountain.
Campaigning for the House seat outside the Town Hall was Sebastian Fuentes and Charlie Cotton holding signs for Fountain, and the Republican candidate, Sean Durkin.
Lancaster Moderator John Riff said there were about eight people waiting in line when the polls opened at 8 a.m. and while he had no idea of the size of turnout, he said there were more than 1,500 registered voters.
What was bringing the voters out, he said, was mostly the Presidential primary.
Speaking with Roy Brewster of Lancaster was newly installed Selectboard Member Kathy-Jean Lavoie, a whistle blower in the Merner case.
Brewster said he has voted for about 50 years in Lancaster and would not miss the opportunity.
In Lincoln, Moderator Robert Wetherell said voting was going well at noon with a steady stream entering the Town Hall. According to the AccuVote machine, 174 had already voted and about seven new voters were registered, adding to the 1,121 voters on the checklist in Lincoln.
In Center Harbor, the voting was steady to heavy with Clerk Mary Richardson saying that there were a lot of Independent voters coming to the polls.
In addition to depositing ballots into the ballot box Alan Rilla, deputy moderator was distributing “I Voted” stickers with art by fourth graders who won a statewide competition with their various designs, including one with a moose overlooking foliage on a cliff and one depicting the shape of the state fishing.
Winners, chosen by town clerks, were Jacob Alberts, Grace St. Cyr and Rilynn Bolen.
The first ever contest was held this year and details are here https://www.sos.nh.gov/4th-grade-new-hampshire-i-voted-sticker-contest.