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College Towns Turn Out; Officials See Higher Voter Turnouts Than in Past Primaries

  • Outside Ward 3 in Lebanon, N.H., voters Nancy Graham and Ed Graham talk with Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, and Grafton County Attorney candidate Natch Greyes on Sept. 11, 2018. The Grahams both said they have not missed an election since they were old enough to vote. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Enfield, N.H., voter Ben Benjamin talks with ballot clerk Becky Powell when voting on Sept. 11, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At the polls in Hanover, N.H., Rubi Simon, left, directs voters Sophie Wohltjen, a Dartmouth College graduate student, and Dartmouth employee Chris Welker to where they need to be on Sept. 11, 2018. Welker recently moved to Hanover and was registering to vote. Wohltjen had been a Hanover voter but has moved to Lebanon, N.H., where she would now have to go to vote. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Susan Blain reads a section of the New Hampshire Election Procedure Manual 2018 on Sept. 11, 2018 during voting in Enfield, N.H. This is Blain's first year as a supervisor of the checklist. She said she was reading the manual "to apply what I'm seeing with what's in the book". (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hanover — College towns in New Hampshire saw heavy turnout as get-out-the-vote drives and strong feelings about President Donald Trump drove many voters to the polls there and in other towns.

Hanover, home to Dartmouth College, saw 1,581 voters cast ballots, a 25 percent increase over the 2016 primary, according to Town Clerk Betsy McClain. It also was more than double the 758 voters who participated in the last mid-term primary elections, in 2014, in Hanover.

Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, saw 2,358 votes, more than twice the average primary between 2008 and 2016, Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig said in a news release.

“The numbers this year simply blew away our historical averages,” Selig said in the release. “It’s a testament to the energy people feel concerning politics at both the national and state level. They want to make their voices heard, and the most effective way to do that is at the ballot box.”

Election officials prepared to serve more voters after Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted 90,000 people would take a Democratic ballot, which would amount to a record midterm turnout. Additional election workers were called to Hanover High School, and safety cones were set up to direct residents registering to vote into a line, McClain said.

“It has not been an onslaught, but it has been generally busier than normal midterm primaries,” she said around 3 p.m., pointing over to the safety cones and a nearly empty line for same-day registration. “We were prepared to do some sort of line management.”

Meanwhile, officials in the communities of Lebanon and Londonderry reported increases in turnout compared to two years ago.

In Lebanon, 1,915 people cast ballots on Tuesday, roughly 300 more than participated in the 2016 primary. Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said in a tweet that more than 3,100 voters had voted as of 6 p.m., a number that he said was “much higher” than the turnout seen in 2016’s primary.

But the Mascoma Valley communities of Grafton, Canaan and Enfield reported a slow, steady turnout at the polls.

“We haven’t really seen any change (in turnout) either way,” Canaan Town Clerk Vicky McAlister said around noon. “Primaries are historically pretty quiet.”

Canaan Town Moderator Dale Barney predicted an uptick in voters during the evening commute, as people get out of work or pick children up from school. But he said that only about 600 people were expected to cast a ballot out of a town of nearly 4,000 people.

“Everything’s smooth so far. It’s slow, but there are no major problems,” Barney said. “The general election is going to be a different story.”

Aside from fielding questions on the state’s new voting law, HB 1264, which has yet to take effect, McClain, the Hanover clerk, said she saw few hiccups on Tuesday.

The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in July, changes the state definition of domicile to align with residency. Opponents of the legislation argue it amounts to a poll tax and will require students to register their vehicles in the Granite State.

McClain said she reminded several people that the law doesn’t take effect until 2019.

“Nothing has changed in terms of the qualifications to declare Hanover as your domicile,” she said.

Dartmouth College sophomores Sabrina Li and Jessica McDermott both registered to vote on Tuesday. They said the process was helped by the college’s Office of Residential Life, which was on-hand to confirm students’ campus residency.

“It was easier than I thought it was going to be,” Li said.

The two students showed poll workers their Dartmouth ID and driver’s licenses and were given a ballot after filling out a few forms. They then got into a van rented by NextGen America, a group funded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer to turn out the youth vote, and headed back to campus.

Steyer on Tuesday night issued a statement saying, “Young people turned out at a record rate tonight — they are tired of politics as usual from Republicans like Chris Sununu, and are ready for real, progressive change. Everyday until November, we will work tirelessly to get young voters to the polls and to fight for a future based on justice and opportunity for all.”

Many Upper Valley voters said on Tuesday that they’re focused on the general election in November.

“You have to vote or you can’t complain, and I want to be able to complain,” Grafton resident Karen Meyers said outside of the town’s fire station, which doubles as its polling place.

Rather than focusing on a single race, Meyers said she chose a Democratic ballot in response to Trump and a political climate that seems to have worsened during his administration.

“I’m really fearful of the future, if things continue the way they are,” she said, to the applause of former Grafton Selectboard member Ken Cushing.

“There’s no civility here. There’s no principles,” Cushing said.

Voters in Lebanon on Tuesday said they were largely interested in voting on two races: the gubernatorial election and race for the Grafton County attorney’s seat.

Former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and former Harrisville state Sen. Molly Kelly were facing off for their party’s nomination to challenge Sununu in November. Marcie Hornick, the managing attorney of the Northern Grafton County Public Defender’s Office, and Natch Greyes, a district court prosecutor in northern Grafton County, were vying for the open county attorney seat.

In Lebanon, Kelly won 873 votes to Marchand’s 558, while Hornick took 869 votes compared to 416 for Greyes. Kelly also won all three wards in Claremont.

“I’m really excited to see someone like Natch Greyes run,” former Lebanon Mayor Ralph Akins said outside the polls at the United Methodist Church. Greyes, he said, would bring youth and energy to the position.

Akins also was supporting Marchand because of the thought and energy he poured into the race.

Lebanon attorney Paul McDonough said Hornick and Kelly both offer needed experience.

“I think (Kelly) will be able to challenge Gov. Sununu and she’s demonstrated her leadership,” he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans were asked to choose between five candidates challenging Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District.

Enfield resident Margaret Trumbell said she favored Dr. Stewart Levenson, of Hopkinton, because of his experience as chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Manchester VA Medical Center. Levenson was the top vote-getter in both Lebanon and Claremont in the GOP primary.

Although he was running uncontested in the primary, Trumbell said she also wanted to show support for Sununu.

“There’s a lot I don’t like about his opponents,” she said.

New Hampshire’s general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.