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What is the Law Regarding Town Meetings?

By CNHT | March 23, 2017

Cancelling Duly Posted Meetings or Elections

If weather conditions look like they could be dangerous to voters at an annual Town, Village District, or School Meeting, the Moderator can postpone the meeting – but not a date set for an election of officers by ballot. That is reserved by law to election laws supervised by the Secretary of State, found in RSA Chapter 654.

This isn’t rocket science. These laws define who is in charge of meetings and who is in charge of elections. Just because one votes at both doesn’t make them the same. Have you ever discussed the merits of a candidate with other voters while voting by ballot on a candidate in the polling place? No. That is called electioneering. When the election is over you get results.
But you discuss issues and budgets at appropriate times of meetings – where you keep minutes, then you vote in person.
Municipalities are subject to state statutes – or else they would operate under their own laws or traditions. Since they are subdivisions of the State of New Hampshire they are bound by State statutes.

5:1 Department; Secretary; Election and Bond; Transition. –
    I. There is hereby established a department of state under the executive direction of the secretary of state. The secretary of state shall be chosen biennially in the manner directed in the constitution and in accordance with RSA 14:2-b and shall hold office until a successor is elected and assumes the duties of the office. The secretary of state’s duties shall be those of both a legislative branch as well as an executive branch officer. The penal sum of his bond shall be $10,000, and the sureties upon it must be satisfactory to the governor and council.

    II. The term of office for the new secretary of state shall begin on the first Wednesday following the first Tuesday in January. The new secretary of state shall assume the duties of office upon taking the oath of office.

    III. It shall be the duty of the outgoing secretary of state to make available to the new secretary of state all official documents and vital information necessary for a full and complete understanding of the operation of the department of state.
Source. Const. II, 67, 70. GS 13:1. GL 14:1. PS 15:1. PL 14:1. RL 21:1. 1950, 5, part 4:1. RSA 5:1. 1976, 45:10. 1989, 72:1. 1994, 4:1, eff. May 27, 1994.

Section 5:6
    5:6 Election Items. – The secretary of state shall prepare and distribute the election-related items as provided in the election laws.

Source. RS 11:2. CS 11:2. GS 13:3. GL 14:3. 1885, 94:4. PS 15:7. PL 14:4. RL 21:4. RSA 5:6. 1979, 436:2, eff. July 1, 1979.
Section 652:1

    652:1 Election. – “Election” shall mean the choosing of a public officer or of a delegate to a party convention or the nominating of a candidate for public office by voters by means of a direct vote conducted under the election laws. The term does not include caucuses or conventions. The types of elections are further defined in this chapter.
Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:2 Regular Election, Special Election. – “Regular election” shall mean an election required to be held periodically under the election laws, a city charter, or a local by-law, and which is held in accordance with the same. Any other election shall be a “special election.” As used in the election laws, “election” shall mean a regular election.
Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:3 State Election. – “State election” shall mean an election to choose a federal, state, or county officer or a delegate to a party convention or to nominate a candidate for federal, state or county office. The 3 types of state elections are defined in RSA 652:4, 652:5 and 652:6.

Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

  652:7 Town Election. – “Town election” shall mean an election to choose a town officer.

Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:8 City Election. – “City election” shall mean an election to choose a city officer.

Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

652:13 Federal Election. – “Federal election” shall mean any state general, special, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of choosing or nominating any candidates for the offices of president, vice-president, United States senator, or United States representative. For federal ballot only voters domiciled outside the United States who are eligible to vote in federal elections as provided in RSA 657:2, “federal election” shall also include any presidential primary election.

Source. 1979, 436:1. 1983, 176:1. 1986, 126:1. 2010, 317:2, eff. July 18, 2010.

  652:14-a City Chief Elections Officer. – The city clerk shall be the chief elections officer with authority to establish uniform practices and procedures that conform to state and federal law for all elections conducted by the city.

Source. 2006, 78:1, eff. July 1, 2006.

The New Hampshire Municipal Association is basing their interpretation of the difference between an election of officers by ballot with the two-part deliberative session and day you vote on articles set into the warrant after the deliberative session.
NHMA is wrong.

40:4 Duties. –
    I. The moderator shall preside in the town meetings, regulate the business thereof, decide questions of order, and make a public declaration of every vote passed, and may prescribe rules of proceeding; but such rules may be altered by the town.
    II. In the event a weather emergency occurs on or before the date of a deliberative session or voting day of a meeting in a town, which the moderator reasonably believes may cause the roads to be hazardous or unsafe, the moderator may, up to 2 hours prior to the scheduled session, postpone and reschedule the deliberative session or voting day of the meeting to another reasonable date, place, and time certain. The date originally scheduled shall continue to be deemed the deliberative session or voting day of the meeting for purposes of satisfying statutory meeting date requirements; provided, that in towns or districts that have adopted RSA 40:13, the postponement shall not delay the deliberative session more than 72 hours. The moderator shall employ whatever means are available to inform citizens of the postponement and the rescheduled deliberative session or voting day.

Source. Const., Art. 32. RS 33:3. 1847, 490:1. CS 35:3. GS 36:3. PS 42:5. PL 46:4. RL 58:4. RSA 40:4. 1998, 278:1, eff. Aug. 25, 1998.

Topics: Town Government, Town Meetings | Comments Off

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