Waiting for guidance from the state, councilors have tabled discussion of a proposal to schedule a ratification vote of the March 21 election.
Originally scheduled for March 14, the election was postponed until March 21 because of a powerful nor’easter. Derry joined many other communities in the Granite State that also postponed elections because of the storm.
The council members voted 5-1-1 during their April 4 meeting to table a public hearing that was to be scheduled for April 28 on whether to schedule the ratification vote. Councilor Richard Tripp voted against tabling the item and Council Chairman Joshua Bourdon abstained.
Before the item was tabled, Bourdon said the proposal to schedule a public hearing on the ratification vote was put on the agenda “because we are trying to get ahead of the curve with regards to state legislation in dealing with postponement of the March 14 election.” But Bourdon said that the state hasn’t passed a law yet or given the council direction with regards to the postponement.
He added, “Due to the fact that we are meeting every Tuesday on the budget I propose that we not take action on this until further action has been given by the state but I will leave that up to the body.”
Following the postponement, former State Rep. Andrew Manuse, of Derry, filed a formal complaint to nullify the election. The former state representative said he didn’t get a chance to vote because of the postponement and nothing was posted to alert voters. Attorney Brenda Keith, of Boutin & Altieri PLLC, recently addressed the postponement at the council’s March 28 meeting.
Keith said Derry’s Charter section 2.2 sets out the town moderator’s duties and specifically indicates that the moderator shall have “all the powers and duties under state law.”
And citing state statute, RSA 40:4, section II, she said that clearly states that the town moderator in a weather emergency can postpone the election.
Keith said there was a little bit of disagreement between the offices of the secretary of state and the attorney general on whether RSA 669:1 called for towns to hold elections on the second Tuesday of March. The secretary of state’s office holds that the statute requires towns to hold elections despite a weather emergency.
But Keith said RSA 40:4, section II, was adopted later than RSA 669, and does allow for voting day to be postponed in the event of a weather emergency.
Keith said she received multiple alerts from the town to the postponement and praised the way the town administrator, town clerk and town moderator handled publicizing the postponement.
“So I think that the town not only had the authority, but they used the authority and when the moderator postponed, the town government took great steps in getting the word out that the election had been postponed,” Keith said.
She added, “So I am perfectly comfortable with the actions of the town moderator and all of the town government in postponing the election. And as far as your town’s legal counsel is concerned this is a closed issue.”