Last Friday, the absentee ballots requested by Litchfield’s voters were distributed throughout town via mail. As your Moderator it is my responsibility under state law to inspect the forms of each absentee ballot ensuring that it is correctly completed prior to allowing your ballot to be counted as part of the election. During the September 8th NH State Primary election, while inspecting the absentee ballots, we found several that required me to hold the ballot from being cast until corrected. While I did personally contact each voter who submitted a defective ballot form and informed them of the problem providing them an opportunity to correct the deficiency, that creates a lot of problems for all concerned. As of Wednesday September 30th, Litchfield voters have requested approximately 800 absentee ballots with over a month to go before the November 3rd election. Normally, we have approximately 300 +/- absentee ballots requested for this type of election. With the high number of absentee ballots requested, I wanted to take the opportunity of providing you with information on how to correctly complete your absentee ballot forms.
Your absentee ballot pack is composed of three parts; the actual ballot on which you will mark your vote for your choice of candidate, the outside mailing envelope that will be used to send you ballot through the mail and finally, the inner envelope that contains two squares containing statements requiring your signature and attestation called the affidavit envelope.
To complete your absentee ballot, mark your choice of candidates on the ballot as if you were voting in person at the polls on election day. Use a pencil to darken in the small oval next to your favorite candidate’s name or darken in the oval and write in a name following the instructions contained on the ballot. Fold the ballot and place it into the affidavit envelope and seal that envelope. On the outside of the affidavit envelope, you will find a lot of wording requiring your attention and signature. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DO NOT SEND IN OR DELIVER AN ABSENTEE BALLOT WITHOUT COMPLETELY FILLING ONE OF THE AFFIDAVIT SECTION OUT AND SIGNING. Select one of the two reasons for using an absentee ballot that fits your situation; either an “Absence from the city or town” or an “Absence Because of Religious Observance or Physical Disability” which included COVID. Completely read the appropriate section and print in the name of our town “Litchfield”. You do not need to fill in the name of a “Ward” as there is only one ward and that encompases all of Litchfield. Read completely the attestation stating that you certify that you’ve read the instructions and have personally marked the ballot then sign the form and print your name below. Note that you only have to fill in one section of the affidavit stating you’re either out of town or can’t attend due to a religious observance or disability. If you have a disability and can not fill in the information on the affidavit, then someone can assist you but they must both sign and print their name below the attestation on the affidavit envelope.
Once the affidavit forms are completed you must seal your affidavit envelope into the mailing envelope. Place your name and address onto the mailing envelope’s return address location and either send or hand deliver it to the Litchfield Town Hall or bring it to the polls on election day and drop it off. Please be aware that each absentee ballot must be completed and processed as described above in its own envelope. Placing several ballots into one mailing envelope must never be done. If you hand deliver someone else’s absentee ballot, you become under state law a “Delivery Agent” and will most likely have to complete and sign separate forms before the other person’s delivered absentee ballot can be accepted and processed.
Errors that I’ve encountered or heard of that are found while opening absentee ballots that will cause your ballot to be held for correction include:
- Failure to fill out or incompletely filling out the affidavit envelope with the required information;
- Placing the actual ballot inside of the mailing envelope but outside of the affidavit envelope;
- Placing an actual ballot into the mailing envelope and returning it without the affidavit envelope;
- Placing multiple affidavit envelopes containing actual ballots into one mailing envelope;
- Absentee ballots delivered after 5 PM on election day;
- Affidavit envelopes placed into the mailing envelope of another voter from the same household (i.e. inner information does not match mailing envelope information);
Should you have any questions or concerns on this topic please do not hesitate to contact me.
Frank A. Byron
Town & School Moderator