Election Primer: What are the duties of Ward moderator, clerk and selectman?

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Poll workers at Manchester’s Ward 4 McDonough Elementary School plow through 700 absentee ballots on Election Day. File Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – When you go to the polls to vote for elected officials on Tuesday, you will see on each ballot candidates for Ward Moderator, clerk and selectman. These are elected offices that assist the City Clerk by seeing that elections are conducted efficiently, effectively and legally in each ward.

Based on the names that appear on your Ward ballot, you will vote for one person as moderator, one person as clerk and three persons to serve as selectmen.

These elected seats are defined in the state election statutes governing towns, cities, village districts and unincorporated places in Section 44:12:

Ward Officers – Three selectmen, a moderator and a clerk shall be elected in each of the wards, who shall have the powers, perform the duties, and be subject to the liabilities, of those officers in towns, so far as relates to the warning of meetings, conducting elections, counting and declaring votes, recording the same, making returns of the votes received and certificates of elections, and all other matters relating to elections.

Click here to review our Voters Guide and ward by ward candidates.

The duties of each elected office are defined below:

Moderator – The moderator is the chief election officer in charge of the polls at the ward level. The moderator is under the direction of the city clerk who is the city’s chief election officer. It is the responsibility of the moderator to make certain that all the election officers are available on the day of the election and that each is familiar with their respective duties for the day. All ward election officers are subordinate to the moderator and he/she shall be responsible for the correctness of the election procedure. The moderator is required to have the polling place open and ready to accept voters at the prescribed time.

During the election day, the moderator is charged with maintaining order at the polling place. He/she will be the authority on all decisions. The city clerk will offer assistance to the moderator by phone or in person, if necessary. The city clerk supplies election specialists to be available to aid the moderator with technical or administrative assistance throughout the day.

Other duties during the election day process may include, but are not limited to, inspecting the checklists, inspecting the voting machines, aiding voters, maintaining order, determining voter challenges, receiving and processing absentee ballots, closing the polls, processing the vote counts, determining legal ballots, reporting the voting results, securing the ballots, validating/signing documentation, and returning the materials, documentation and counted ballots to the city clerk’s office. The moderator may be asked to participate in any recount procedures that a candidate may request.

ClerkThe ward clerk shall report directly to the moderator. The primary duty of the clerk shall be to administer and prepare the documentation required at the polling place. This would include not only the election return and tally sheets and associated reports, but will also include such documentation as poll workers time sheets, payroll records, W-4 forms, etc.

The ward clerk must pick up the ward supplies and documentation package at the city clerk’s office before reporting to the polling place.

The ward clerk shall also aid any voters who may need assistance in the polling area. The clerk will assist the moderator in the course of managing the polling place.

Other duties require the clerk, at the direction of the city clerk and the Secretary of State, to require the selectmen to sign and post warrants announcing the upcoming election.

SelectmenThere are three elected selectmen per ward. The selectmen are responsible for choosing the polling place. They report directly to the moderator. Their primary duty is to maintain the checklist and to aid the voters in the election process. They must be signatories on warrants and most of the election reports and are, therefore, responsible for the proper counting of the election results (including tallies and absentee counting) and providing the Ward Clerk with their results. They are responsible for the orderly flow of voters through the polling place and to ensure that the polls are open and functioning properly. They are also responsible for making appointments of ballot inspectors if the two major parties fail to appoint within the required timeframe.

About this Author


Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!