Town Polling Place COVID 19 Mask Policy
The COVID 19 virus continues to be a threat to our community. It is contagious and it can kill. All experts agree, however, that the community spread of the virus can be controlled or limited by various protective measures, the most important of which are social distancing, frequent hand washing or sanitizing, and the wearing of masks that cover our noses and mouths.
Under State law, the Town Moderator is in charge of all matters relating to elections, and for several weeks, I have been studying the available information and consulting with Town officials to develop an election process that will best protect our voters, election workers and Town officials at our upcoming Primary and General Elections. With the aid and support of the State and Town, we will provide all election workers and Town officials with face masks, face shields, sneeze shields, gloves and other PPE to protect them and others from the risk of infection while working at or being present at the polling place. Voters will receive single-use pencils, single-use voting booth mats and we will have plenty of extra single-use face masks on hand for anyone who needs one. Ample amounts of hand sanitizer will also be available for all to use. We will also set up the polling place so as to maintain social distancing to the maximum extent possible, and we are encouraging as many voters as possible to voter by absentee ballot. As an additional protection for voters, I will also ask all workers and officials to pre-screen themselves on the morning of the elections, and to stay home if they cannot satisfy the pre-screening criteria.
After much thought, and based upon my review of all of the available data, including the advice of Dr. Benjamin Chan, the State Epidemiologist, I have decided that all voters, election officials and poll workers must wear face masks while in the polling place. Those who cannot or will not wear a mask will have two alternatives to both register to vote and to cast their ballots in the elections. First, they may register to vote, request and cast an absentee ballot in advance of the elections. Second, they may use the Outside Absentee Voting option of RSA 659:20-a, which previously has been available only to voters with unexpected disabilities on election day, to both register to vote and vote.
Voters who cannot or will not wear a face mask and wish to use the Outside Absentee Voting option will be directed to drive to the marked door on the Knox Rd. side of the Community Center, where they will be met by designated poll workers. Voters will be given an application for absentee ballot, an absentee ballot, and an absentee ballot affidavit envelope. The voters will complete the absentee ballot application, fill out the ballot and seal the ballot in the affidavit envelope all while staying in their cars, and then return everything to the poll workers when they are done. In a similar manner, individuals who wish to register to vote but cannot or will not wear a mask will be given the necessary application forms to fill out in their cars, and will be asked to provide the usual information that is required of all persons who are registering to vote. The poll workers will deliver the completed documentation to the Town Clerk and the Supervisors of the Checklist, as appropriate, and the affidavit envelope with the ballot inside to me. I will process the absentee ballots in the same manner as I do with all other absentee ballots.
Though some have attempted to turn the wearing of face masks into a political issue, it is not. It is a matter of courtesy and respect for others and of protecting the health and welfare of the citizens of our community. We are confident that if we follow all of the recommended protective measures, we will be able to minimize the risk of exposing our citizens, officials and volunteers to infection by the COVID 19 virus while assuring that everyone who wishes to vote has the opportunity to do so. I thank you all in advance for your cooperation and support in these challenging times.
Peter Imse, Town Moderator