The field is set, and with Election Day just weeks away, there are many questions about how to vote. Many first-time voters have signed up through One Portsmouth via social media or the website, and have asked some very good questions. How do I register to vote? Where do I go to vote? What if I want to vote, but will be away for work on Election Day? What are the hours? Here are some FAQ’s to address these and other questions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with additional questions.
When is the municipal election this year?
The election is Tuesday, November 7th. The polls are open from 8 am to 7 pm.
Where do I vote?
There are five polling locations, one in each of the city’s five wards. You may only vote in the the polling location that matches the ward in which you live. To confirm where your polling location is located, click here.
What if I can’t vote that day?
There are a number of reasons why people who would like to vote cannot on a given day. For those situation, absentee balloting – where you complete your ballot prior to Election Day – is available. The official permissable reasons are listed here, but they basically account for inability to vote due to being out of town; being uncertain due to one’s work schedule; disability; or religious observance. As a practical matter, most people’s primary barrier is likely work-related (commuting from Boston, business travel out of town, etc.)
The process for completing your absentee ballot is straightforward:
1) If you think you may not be able to get to the polls on November 7th, the easiest way to vote is in person prior to Election Day. To do so, you can walk into the City Clerk’s office and vote right there (just bring some form of ID).
2) You can also fill out an absentee ballot application (found here), and either drop it off at the City Clerk’s office at City Hall; mail it back at the address found on the top of the one-page form; or scan it and then email it to the City Clerk, Kelli Barnaby, at email@example.com. You will then have a copy of the ballot sent to your home address, which you must return prior to Election Day.
In terms of Election Day, anything I need to know at the polling location?
1) With the exception of a few peak periods (right after the polls open, lunchtime, close of the business day), there is little, if any, line to vote on municipal election days. Turnout is unfortunately generally much lower than during presidential election years, but the number of polling locations is the same. Thus, voting is a very quick process.
2) If you are not already registered to vote on Election Day, that’s not an issue. New Hampshire has “same day” voter registration, which means you can register to vote at the polling location. It is also a very quick process.
3) While this is generally not an issue for local elections, you are not allowed to promote candidates, or bring in or wear promotional materials, into the polling location. (So, you’ll have to leave your “Jones for City Council” tshirt at home when you vote!) On a more serious note, it is common for voters to bring in a list of the people for whom they will be voting that day (especially for City Council, because there are many candidates). That is fine – but be sure to take that list with you as you leave the polling location. You are not permitted to leave your list behind, as that can be seen as a form of promotion of candidates.
4) If you end up submitting an absentee ballot, and your plans change in a way that allows you to be in Portsmouth on Election Day (say, a business trip gets cancelled at the last minute), do not go to the polls and vote. Your absentee ballot is your ballot, and it will be counted! One vote per voter, please!
Do I need to vote for the maximum number of candidates?
This is an important, and sometimes confusing, point. You may vote for up to nine candidates for City Council, for example, but you are not required to vote for exactly nine. If you are familiar with and supportive of nine, then you should vote for nine. If you are supportive of fewer than nine, however, that is also perfectly fine. The same applies for School Board, which has multiple openings. Please note that if you vote for more than nine candidates, your ballot will not be counted.
If you haven’t voted before, have fun, and do not take this activity for granted. In much of the world, people literally die for the chance to do this. You’ll probably see lots of people, including the candidates themselves, standing near the polling location entrance with signs, saying hello to everybody. Whether they are a candidate you are supporting or not, be really nice to them. It is admirable to run for public office, and after Election Day, we’re all working together – a smile and a warm wish go a long way.