Americans with disabilities have too often been unable to cast their ballots because of inaccessible voting places or discriminatory voting policies. The Help America Vote Act requires states to improve access to the polls for individuals with disabilities. All Americans are entitled to exercise their right to vote. The DRC is working to educate NH […]
Know Your Rights
All Americans are entitled to exercise their right to vote. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires New Hampshire to develop a plan to ensure that all individuals with disabilities have access to voting. HAVA and other laws require that you be able to:
- Park in an accessible space at the registration and polling locations
- Have an accessible route from the parking space to the accessible entrance
- Register on the same day you vote
- The NH Secretary of State must provide voter, election official, and poll worker training to ensure access to individuals with disabilities.
- Use an accessible voting booth
- Vote privately and independently
- Choose to get assistance from a friend, family member, or poll worker. That person cannot try to influence your vote.
- If you make a mistake on your ballot, you can turn it in and get another one.
- If you live in an institution, you are still entitled to vote unless that right has specifically been terminated by law due to guardianship or criminal conviction
Protecting Your Voting Rights
DRC-NH receives funding through the Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) Project to help people with disabilities to vote more independently and privately. This grant also funds training for people with disabilities, providers, family members and election officials regarding the voting rights of people with disabilities. DRC-NH helps with disability related legal issues in the priority areas outlined below:
- Provide individual counseling and advice to people with disabilities regarding voting rights.
- Educate voters with disabilities, family members, advocates and providers about voting rights of people with disabilities.
- Train municipal attorneys, election officials, town moderators and others about the voting rights of people with disabilities and their obligations to make voting accessible.
- Advocate for the use of accessible voting technology by people with disabilities and advocates across New Hampshire.
- Conduct outreach, including demonstration of the accessible voting machines, throughout NH.
- Survey candidates in state or federal elections regarding issues that are important to people with disabilities. Share the results of the surveys in non-partisan ways to educate voters with disabilities.
- Partner with disability groups across the state to raise awareness of elections, increase participation of people with disabilities and address identified barriers to participation.
- Ensure NH’s laws and policies promote the rights of people with disabilities to vote.
- Ensure people with disabilities can fully participate in the legislative process.
Note: PAVA funding cannot be used for litigation.
2018 Midterm Election Candidate Questionnaires
In the lead up to the 2018 elections, we distributed candidate questionnaires in order to learn more about how each candidate would address issues important to the disability community. The questionnaires were sent to ALL of the NH Gubernatorial, Secretary of State, and Congressional candidates.
Candidates’ unedited responses are available here.
Am I eligible to register to vote in New Hampshire?
You may register to vote if:
- You are a United States citizen
- You are 18 years of age
- You may register at age 17 if you will be 18 years old by the day of the next election
- You are domiciled in the community in which you are seeking to register Your domicile is the place where you live, or the place you call home.
Where do I register to vote?
- At your city/town clerk’s office at least 10 days before the election.
- At the polls on election day.
- By mail. If you have a physical disability that prevents you from registering in person, ask your city/town clerk for an absentee voter registration. Make sure it gets returned to the clerk’s office at least 10 days before the election.
Do I need to provide proof of citizenship, age, or domicile?
Citizenship: Any one of the following:
- Birth certificate,
- Naturalization papers,
- Citizenship affidavit, OR
- Any other reasonable documentation which indicates you are a U.S. citizen
Age: Any reasonable documentation showing you are 18 years of age or older.
Domicile: NH’s law regarding domicile recently changed. The NH Secretary of State’s Office has the most up-to-date information.
- If you are registering to vote more than 30 days before an election, you must submit documentation that proves you have domicile at the address on your registration form.
- Any of the following documents is presumptive evidence that you meet the domicile requirement, provided the document is: currently valid, was issued to you or in your name, and shows the address you claim as a domicile.
- New Hampshire driver’s license
- New Hampshire vehicle registration
- Armed services identification
- A photo identification issued by the U.S. government
- If you are registering to vote within 30 days of the election-including on the day of the election and you do not have any domicile documents, you can still register to vote. However, you must either:
- Promise to submit documentation proving domicile to the town clerk’s office within ten days (or thirty days if the clerk’s office is open for less than twenty hours per week). OR,
- Sign an agreement that will authorize the clerk’s office to send two municipal officers or their agents to the address that you provided on the form in order to verify that you have domicile at that address.
Who decides if I am eligible to vote?
Town and city clerks are required to accept your application, however, only the supervisors can make the final decision. Your application shall be accepted, unless it is established that it is more likely than not that you are not qualified to vote. (RSA 654:11)
What if my name is not on the checklist when I go to vote?
You may register to vote with the supervisors of the checklist (at your polling place) during any election, as long as you meet all of the qualifications, including the new domicile documentation requirements.
What happens if the supervisors decide I am not qualified to vote?
The supervisors must inform you in writing within 7 days of their decision, stating the reason for the denial. The supervisors must write the word “rejected” on the registration form and preserve it. (RSA 654:13).
You may appeal the supervisors’ denial to the New Hampshire Superior Court. (RSA 654:42)
I have a felony conviction, can I vote?
You may vote if the sentence is suspended or you are paroled. If you are sentenced for a felony, you cannot vote from the time of your sentence until your final discharge.
I am in jail, but do not have a felony conviction, can I vote?
If you are in jail in pre-trial detention or as a result of a conviction for a misdemeanor you may vote by absentee ballot. Your domicile is the town or city where you were domiciled prior to being confined. (RSA 654:2-a)
Is there any other reason why I may not be qualified to vote?
Yes. Any person convicted of bribery or intimidation relating to elections or any willful violation of the election law is forever disqualified from voting, seeking or holding public office, unless the Supreme Court reinstates the right.
I have a guardian, can I vote?
Maybe. The election laws do not prohibit you from voting. However, the petition for the court may have taken away your right to vote. If you are unsure, you should look at your guardianship papers.
What if I am unable to go to the polls?
If you are unable to vote because:
- You will be absent from your city or town on election day,
- You have a physical disability that prohibits you from voting in person,
- You are a member of the armed services (or a spouse or dependent of a member) and will be absent on election day,
- You are living overseas, or
- You cannot vote in person because of observance of a religious commitment,
you may vote by absentee ballot.
How do I get an absentee ballot?
You may request an absentee ballot from your town or city clerk.
When do I have to return my absentee ballot?
You must either mail or personally deliver it to the city or town clerk. If you are mailing the ballot, it must be received by 5 p.m. on election day. If you are delivering the ballot you must do so by 5 p.m. on the day before the election. Town and City Clerks must be available between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the day before the election.
Do I have to apply to vote absentee before every election?
You may request an absentee ballot for both the primary election and general election during the same year. However, for subsequent elections, you will need to reapply. New Hampshire does not have permanent absentee voter status.
What if I am ill or hospitalized on the day of the election?
There is no deadline for applying for an absentee ballot. The only deadline is that it must be received by 5:00 p.m. on election day. (RSA 657:22)
The town or city clerk may deputize someone from his or her office, or take the ballot to you, and then accept receipt of the completed ballot in person.
What if my polling place is not accessible?
The New Hampshire Constitution states that “polling places shall be easily accessible to all persons including disabled and elderly persons…” If you are unable to vote due to an inaccessible poll you should contact Disability Rights Center – NH at 1-800-834-1721 and/or the Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-868-3703. You may also vote by absentee ballot.
Any voter who arrives at a polling place and states under oath to the moderator that they are unable to access the polling place due to physical disability may have an absentee ballot delivered to that voter outside the guardrail to a location that is accessible to the voter. (RSA 659:20-a)
What if I cannot read the ballot or independently mark the ballot?
Each town now has in place an accessible voting system that includes a tablet, keyboard, and printer, called the one4all system. For a helpful explanation of the one4all system, view the NH Association for the Blind’s video, Demonstration of Accessible Voting for Vision Loss in New Hampshire.
You may also have a person of your choice assist you in the voting both, but not your employer or union official. You must declare to the moderator why you need assistance and your assistant must swear to the moderator that he or she will mark the ballot as you direct and keep your vote confidential. (RSA 659:20, 42 U.S.C. 1973 aa-6)
What if I make a mistake when marking the ballot?
You may return the ballot to the moderator and request a new ballot. The moderator must write “canceled” on the ballot and sign it. The ballot is then considered “spoiled” and held by the moderator, who will place it with all other ballots when counting is over.
If you make a mistake on the second ballot, you may request a third ballot. However, if you make a mistake on the third ballot, you will not be permitted an additional ballot (RSA 659:22) and must decide whether to cast it with the mistake.
How Do I File a Complaint?
Contact us at 1-800-834-1721 if you would like to schedule an education and information session about your rights as a voter with disabilities or if you think your voting rights have been violated.
You may also contact the NH Department of Justice to file a complaint about an election law violation.
The Disabilities Rights Center Presents…How to Register and Vote, a simple guide to the steps to participating in the electoral process. The show is interpreted by CDI Debbie McKinney.
Your right to vote, from New Hampshire’s Disabilities Rights Center
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RAP Sheet Winter/Spring 2011: Rising to the Challenge: ASD in New Hampshire