by Ed Naile

We call this one “The Lump at the Dump” for obvious reasons.

For several weeks prior to a November 2003 Special Meeting, called by the Bedford School Board in one of its many attempts to jam a school bond down the throats of Bedford voters, this stunt was pulled.

The “lump at the dump” is of course a Bedford School District Clerk who set up a card table and sign saying “Vote Here Today.” The sign was complete with poll hours. IF you look closely you can see the voter checklist on his table. The purpose of the pre-special meeting polling station was to hand out absentee ballots so people could “vote” while taking out their trash. Here is the relevant law:

671:21 Absentee Voting. –
I. A school district shall provide for absentee voting in the same manner as towns as provided in RSA 669:26-669:29 except that all duties performed therein by the town clerk shall be performed by the school district clerk. (The Lump)

II. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I, if any school district votes to elect its district officers by separate ballot at the town election as provided in RSA 671:22, II, then for either the town election or the school district election an application for an absentee ballot shall be sufficient in order to receive an absentee ballot for both the town election and the school district election. If a town adopts the provisions of RSA 671:22, II, all forms relative to applications for absentee ballots, all absentee ballots, and all returns of absentee ballots shall be made only available at and only returnable to, as applicable, the office of each town clerk of each town comprising the school district.

III. Each town clerk shall make facilities in the town clerk’s office available for the school district clerk to perform school district functions in connection with absentee voting. It shall be the duty of the school district clerk to post a notice at the school district clerk’s office informing voters that all absentee voting procedures for school district elections shall be handled only through the town clerk’s office.
Source. 1979, 321:1. 1983, 102:1, eff. July 23, 1983. 1997, 176:6, eff. Aug. 11, 1997.

Funny? It doesn’t mention BEDFORD TOWN DUMP in RSA 671:21. No card tables for handing out absentee ballots like candy. It doesn’t mention polling hours at all. You would think that if you were going to have voting at the BEDFORD TOWN DUMP there should be uniform hours with all the other towns that do it.

Now the reason “The Lump at the Dump” went to all the trouble to set up a satellite polling station WEEKS BEFORE the Nov. 2, 2003 Bedford School District Special Meeting. This Special Meeting was for a bond and it was NOT an emergency so a 50% voter turnout was required by RSA 197:3.

The “Lump” was trying “Pump” up the amount of voters. That is, using his position as School District Clerk to sway the outcome of the election.

CNHT was working with the taxpayer group in Bedford and suggested having informed taxpayers NOT vote in this “Special Meeting” would be the best strategy to defeat the $30 million dollar bond for two reasons.

One: It was not an emergency and historically at special meetings many “regular” voters do not show up. They should for all intents and purposes be re-named “Special Interest Meetings.”

Two: It had a “Heads they win – Tails you lose” warrant article created by the School Board. It was a sucker’s bet.

After the election we took the photos and all the many statutes violated by the Clerk to Bud Fitch at the AG’s office. A futile exercise as usual. He wrote some opinion that what Lumpy did was “highly unusual” but not illegal.

So next time Lumpy can set up a polling station in the woods and only let the bears know it’s there.

Hey, its “New Hampshire The Primary State,” who cares.