It’s hard to know where to begin when describing this past year’s election cycle. In Bennington we had 4 regular elections and one special election. We probably broke records in both directions for both the lowest voter turnout (the special election in July) and the highest voter turnout – 77% (The November Presidential). In that one day, we had 128 new voter registrations! All those who helped on Nov. 2 should be commended for making that busy day a success: there were no significant waits, and everyone who came to vote was able to.
2004 also saw another change in our board – Darlene McKenney chose not to run for another term - Dru Cox and Barbara Moorhead were elected to fill the two open seats. It couldn’t have been a more complicated year to bring two new people into the job, but we all rose to the challenge and got things figured out reasonably well, considering.
This year’s Town Elections will be Tuesday, March 8. The Polls will be open 8am – 7pm
This year there will be a warrant article proposing a change in the Poll open hours from 8am – 7pm to 10am – 8pm. Many towns stay open later to make it easier for people who work far away to get home and vote. While this may make it easier for voters, it also means that Poll workers and volunteer vote counters will have to stay later. Opening the Polls later in the morning would keep the day from getting too long for Poll workers. Ultimately, it will be up to the voters which arrangement they think is better.
As of this writing, Bennington has 958 registered voters: 230 Democrats, 400 Republicans, and 328 Undeclared voters. That is 185 more voters than we had last year! Hopefully, Bennington citizens will choose to continue turning out in higher numbers. Every vote will be counted, and every vote counts! We should be proud that the system in New Hampshire is a good one, and the use of paper ballots guarantees that errors can be corrected. This year, in our own State Representative District, we were reminded of how important every vote is when, on a recount, the results were overturned. The final margin was a mere 4 votes.
Discouraging stories from other states about long lines keeping working people from voting, ballots being lost, and votes being miscounted, point up how important it is that every part of the process be done with care and with the proper checks and balances. It is up to all of us to make sure that that never happens here, and that we continue working to keep our elections fair and open.
Copies of the Bennington Checklist are available on request for $10 for paper copies and $5 via email or floppy disc. Prior years' registration cards and checklists are open to inspection during normal Town Hall business hours. However, new privacy standards enacted with HAVA require that registration forms starting from 2004 will be kept confidential. There will always be printed copies of the most recent checklist available, however.
REGISTERING TO VOTE
Voting is a fundamental right, as it is one of the rights from which all other freedoms flow. Nearly every citizen of the United States is entitled to register and vote somewhere. In most cases, people register where their primary residence is. However, citizens who are in transition, homeless, living oversees, in college, etc. must have equal access to the fundamental right of voting.
In order to register to vote you must fill out a voter registration form and must have proof of your citizenship, age, and domicile. Bring your drivers’ license, and make sure that it has your current street address on it. Or bring another picture I.D. and some proof of domicile. Proof of domicile can be any reasonable documentation indicating that you live in Bennington, like an electric bill or rental agreement. If you are not sure where your primary residence is, use the “pillow test”: Where do you lay your head down to sleep most nights? Exceptions to this are college students, who may vote in either the college town where they live now, or their home town, if they intend to return there after school; and senior citizens, who may continue to vote in their home town even if they move to a retirement home in another town.
If you do not have documentation regarding domicile you may sign an affidavit declaring your domicile. The affidavit may be sworn before a justice of the peace, notary public, or the Town Moderator on election day.
Voters can get on the checklist in four ways:
1)Same Day Registration. Register at the polls on the day of the election.
2)Register with the Supervisors of the Checklist at one of their scheduled sessions. Sessions are usually 10 days prior to the election and will be posted in the Monadnock Ledger and on the Town Hall bulletin board.
3)Register with the Town Clerk during regular Town Hall hours.
4)If you are out of town, you can get an absentee voter registration form from the Town Clerk, as well as an absentee ballot. Call 603-588-2189
If you are on the checklist as a Democrat or Republican and you wish to be an Undeclared voter, please see the Supervisors or the Town Clerk prior to June of 2006 to fill out a change form. Do it now, before you forget!
If you will not be in town for any election, please try to vote absentee. You can even vote absentee if you are not sure if your work and commuting schedule will allow you to get to the polls in time. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to vote absentee. Your vote counts!
If you plan to vote absentee, please plan ahead. The Town Clerk has all the forms you will need, and she can tell you how to file absentee, and what the deadlines are for each election. Separate forms must be gotten for each election. (The exception to this is military personnel, who can fill out the Federal Post Card Application. This ensures that all ballots will be sent to them, as long as they are stationed in one place. The online version of this form is at http://www.fvap.gov/pubs/onlinefpca.html )
Call the Town Hall at 603-588-2189 for more information on absentee voting.