Gilmanton clerk battles 'misinformation' about early voting

By DAVID CARKHUFF, THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — "Misinformation" spread by telephone calls and Facebook prompted some voters to arrive at Town Hall prior to Tuesday's actual Voting Day. Some residents thought that they could vote early.
"People thought that they could come and go upstairs and vote," said Gilmanton Town Clerk/Tax Collector Debra A. Cornett, describing the influx of people trying to vote prior to the March 14 Voting Day.
"There is no early voting in the state of New Hampshire," Cornett said.
The problem was so pervasive that Cornett issued an alert on the town's website, www.gilmantonnh.org.
The alert read, "Corrections to misinformation distributed pertaining to Tuesday, March 14, 2017 from 7:00 a.m. - 7 p.m. There is NO EARLY VOTING in NH. The criteria for Absentee Voting is listed in the posting; please read and call the Clerk's office with any questions."
The ballot election for town and school in Gilmanton — Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., upstairs at the Gilmanton Academy Building — remained on schedule despite the predicted nor'easter rolling through New England.
But on top of the storm, false information that voters could cast ballots early created confusion, Cornett said.
"A lot of misinformation was put out. I guess they were doing phone call blasts, it was coming over phone messaging, it was on Facebook," Cornett said.
The source of the misinformation included former town officials, she said.
Town voters on Tuesday were scheduled to vote on Article 24, a petitioned article to raise $48,500 for the Gilmanton Year Round Library.
A representative of the Gilmanton Year-Round Library, posting on Facebook on Monday, wrote, "There has been some confusion in regards to absentee ballot voting. The only way a person can vote via absentee ballot is if they are ill, their religion prohibits them from voting that day, they are at work during voting hours or they will be out of town." The post cautioned that "if you do not meet one of the requirements above then you will need to safely find your way to the polls between 7am and 7pm tomorrow," meaning Tuesday, March 14.
Under absentee voting, ballots must be received in person by 5 p.m. on the day prior to the election or by mail on election day until 5 p.m., according to the clerk's office. Military personnel ballots may be accepted until 5 p.m. on the day of election.
On Monday, Cornett said her staff stayed busy processing many absentee ballots and fielding calls to clear up the information about voting times.
The misinformation, she said, "travels like wildfire," so she and her staff worked to set the record straight that a person is not allowed to participate in early voting in New Hampshire.
For details about the voting laws, visit www.gilmantonnh.org or call (603) 267-6726.

Blizzard delays Belmont vote

Other towns go on with voting Tuesday

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

With the exception of Belmont, most area towns took a cue from Broadway when preparing for Tuesday’s snowy and stormy Voting Day.
Voting will occur as planned in Gilmanton, Hatch said, despite a powerful nor'easter that forecasters predicted would dump heavy snow and ice on New England, creating dangerous travel conditions and possibly causing power outages.
Some communities in the state chose to reschedule based on the weather forecasts — and despite advice from state officials that the legal requirements aren't clear about the ability of town officials to reschedule elections.
Belmont was the first and only one of the local towns with voting scheduled on Tuesday to postpone.
Belmont Town Clerk/Tax Collector Cynthia DeRoy said, "The decision has been made in Belmont, and we are postponing the election until Thursday, the 16th. And the polls will be open from 7 to 7 at Belmont High School. That is voting for the town and the school."
As a result of the decision, Belmont Town and School District voting will take place 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, at Belmont High School.
Al Nix, moderator for the town of Belmont, said he joined a conference call that included Gov. Chris Sununu, and Nix said, "They were very clear about the rights of moderators to change the dates of elections."
But the governor also signaled in a statement after the call that towns are advised to continue with the vote, based on state election law.
Governor Sununu, in remarks following the conference call with local officials Monday, said, "Given that there are differing opinions, the best we can do is strongly recommend that all towns stay open for voting tomorrow. We think that's a very important part of the process, but given those differing opinions, I don't think we're in a position to mandate that towns stay open or reverse their direction if they so choose not to, but we do strongly recommend that they do stay open. If towns do choose, and make that choice on their own, at their risk, frankly, to make a decision to postpone their voting. We got on the phone and wanted to make them aware of some recommendations that we had, such as ensuring that someone was at least available either at the polling places or town offices with absentee ballots so folks coming in to vote could at least obtain an absentee ballot, if they were not going to be available for the rescheduled voting day."
The governor also acknowledged that road conditions could be dangerous and that "people need to take precautions and be safe, plan their days accordingly and participate in the process."
In Belmont, officials took into consideration the fact that many voters arrive to vote after work, which would be at the height of the blizzard, and many individuals work in Concord and live in Canterbury, so the demands of travel would be too great, Nix said.
"It was a danger to the public," he said.
The National Weather Service warned that from the northern Middle Atlantic to Southern New England, 12 to 18 inches of snow could be expected with up to 2 feet in some places, as well as strong winds that could down trees and cause power outages.
For town clerks preparing for Tuesday's elections, the specter of a blizzard on Voting Day created a dilemma. Many thought the weather didn't warrant a postponement — it is winter in New England, after all.
Gilmanton Town Clerk/Tax Collector Debra Cornett said, "We have never rescheduled an election."
Town meetings have been rescheduled due to weather, but elections typically have gone on as planned, particularly since they are bound by state statute, she said.
"We are not postponing anything. There are too many election laws that go with an election," Cornett said. "It's not the first time we've had a snowstorm on election day."
Meredith Town Clerk Kerri Parker said the storm will not affect voting there.
"We're not changing anything," she said.
In Sanbornton, voting also remained on track for Tuesday, officials reported.
"Sanbornton Town and School District Voting will take place, and cannot be changed due to snow, tomorrow Tuesday March 14th from 7:00 am through 7:00 pm at the Old Town Hall, 19 Meetinghouse Hill Road," the Sanbornton Police Department reported via Facebook.
Town meetings in Meredith and Sanbornton on Wednesday could be subject to change, officials cautioned.
"The Sanbornton Town Meeting will be held on Wednesday March 15th at 7:00 pm at the Sanbornton Central School, 16 Hunkins Pond Road," the police department reported on its Facebook page. "The Town Moderator does have the authority to change the Town Meeting time if necessary due to weather. That decision will be made on Wednesday. Any changes in time will be announced through this system, as well as Facebook and other outlets. Unless you receive an official announcement to the contrary, the Town Meeting will be Wednesday at 7:00 pm."
In Gilford, where the Gilford School District Deliberative session had to be postponed due to bad weather back in February, the decision was made to continue on Tuesday with Voting Day as scheduled.
The Town and School elections will go on as scheduled on Tuesday, March 14, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Gilford Youth Center, 19 Potter Hill Road, the town reported.
"This decision was made after a great deal of consideration and was ultimately based upon the recommendations of Governor Chris Sununu and Secretary of State William Gardner," Town and School District Moderator Sandra T. McGonagle reported. "Current forecasts for Tuesday are calling for a Nor'easter snow storm with potential accumulations of up to 20 inches. Town and State plow trucks are expected to be operating throughout the snowfall in an attempt to keep roads as clear as possible. Voters are urged to use extreme caution while traveling to and from the polling place."

Home lost, woman spared in Northfield fire

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

NORTHFIELD — Fire left a home at 520 Shaker Road, Unit 3, a total loss on Thursday afternoon, but prompt action by a police officer spared the life of a woman, who was alone and asleep when the fire broke out.

Officer Michael Nordberg of the Northfield Police, who called at the home to check on the welfare of the resident who had been absent from work, found the residence filled with thick and the sound of smoke detectors. At 2:27 p.m. he alerted the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department, which had an ambulance crew in the neighborhood conducting an inspection. Noticing a vehicle in the driveway, Nordberg began rapping on windows and doors while calling to alert anyone inside.

Meanwhile, the ambulance crew, hearing Nordberg's call to the fire station, reached the scene within minutes, arriving to see Nordberg escorting the woman from the burning building. Nordberg said that the woman had awoken at the sound of his voice and was leaving the building as he opened the door. Fire Chief Michael Sitar explained that opening the door fed oxygen to the fire, causing it to flash over very quickly..

"Within 90 seconds of the occupant exiting the home, the area where she was located was not survivable," said Lt. Jon Powell. "The heads-up thinking of the Northfield Police doing what they did and making the conscious decision to not enter the building themselves undoubtedly saved the occupant's life."

The woman was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene within minutes. and transported to Franklin Regional Hospital.

Powell said that the fire was not suspicious but accidental and described the home as "a total loss due to extensive heat and smoke damage."

03-10 Shaker Road Fire

A woman survived this fire at 520 Shaker Road March 9. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

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