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Area Democrats apologize after sending out unlabeled ‘sample’ ballots

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2020 9:56:41 PM
Modified: 10/14/2020 10:02:42 PM

HANOVER — The Hanover/Lyme Democrats accidentally dropped the word “sample” from 5,500 copies of ballots marked with votes for Democratic candidates that it mailed to voters in the two towns this week, prompting concerns that residents might be confused by the mailing.

Deb Nelson, the group’s chairwoman, said she takes full responsibility for the mix-up.

“I do not want anybody thinking that this was ... deliberate or nefarious or anything negative,” Nelson, a longtime Democratic activist in the Upper Valley, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Nelson’s committee provided its printer with the PDF of the sample ballots for Hanover and Lyme voters, who share a legislative district in the New Hampshire House, from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s website. But, the word “sample” somehow dropped off when the printer, as requested, made adjustments to the ballots’ margins and filled in the circles for the Democratic candidates, she said.

The mailing, which Nelson said was sent in an envelope that did include the word “sample,” are intended to encourage residents in the two towns to vote for Democrats. Hanover, home to Dartmouth College, has proved to be a key voting ground in close presidential and congressional elections.

“ ‘Sample’ was part of a layer and it didn’t get downloaded,” Nelson said.

After the printing, Nelson, who didn’t realize that the word “sample” had been dropped, drove the copies, as well as a separate sheet of information about the Democratic candidates, to a mailing house in Claremont, which then sent them out.

They arrived in the mailboxes of the two towns’ registered Democrats and undeclared voters on Tuesday. Nelson got hers, but didn’t notice the mistake until she got a call from the state’s Democratic Party midday Wednesday.

“We have been made aware of the situation and are helping to support the local committee as it works to address the error and ensure that local voters know how to vote,” said Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, in an email. “Voters should not mail or return a sample ballot, and should only return ballots they complete.”

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, in a Wednesday phone call, declined to comment on the Hanover/Lyme group’s mailing because he hadn’t seen it.

Nelson said she’s not concerned about voters who have already voted absentee, but she is worried that some people may be confused or angry, “which is legitimate.”

“I also don’t want someone to think, ‘Oh, we’re getting ballots that we can return,’ ” she said.

Should voters mail in the sample ballots to the town office, election officials will immediately recognize they are not real if they arrive in an envelope other than the envelope provided for absentee ballots, said Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said. If a voter tries to send in a ballot in something other than those envelopes, town officials can work with the local Democrats to alert the voter to their mistake, Griffin said. The sample ballots printed in error are on a different type of paper and lack some markings of the official ballot, Nelson said.

But, if the sample ballot arrives in an absentee ballot envelope, election officials won’t know it’s the wrong ballot until Election Day, when the envelopes are opened, Griffin said. The ballot wouldn’t be counted unless local Democrats were able to locate and inform the voter of the problem and have them come in that day and vote in person, she said.

Town officials are asking that the local Democrats send out another mailing clarifying that the ballot they sent out was in fact a sample and not intended for voting purposes, Griffin said.

“What we don’t need right now is more confusion or opportunities for individuals to either be angry or worried about voting information,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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