CONCORD, NH – Each spring, over 200 towns across New Hampshire engage in a highly proscribed tradition of direct democracy, following a myriad of specific dates and requirements to make Town Meetings a reality. This year, residents of New Hampshire towns will still meet to decide a panoply of topics, but requirements on timelines are going to be somewhat more free form.
On Jan. 22, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu announced that Town Meeting deliberative sessions, traditional Town Meetings and official ballot voting days for Town Meetings can be postponed upon the decision of local officials. Voting procedures may also be modified for safety purposes after consultation with town moderators, the attorney general’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Under state law, towns must meet a series of deadlines regarding items such as the submission of annual budgets and voter checklists as well as set dates for deliberative sessions and voting days depending on the style of Town Meeting followed by the town.
The move comes after a recent bi-partisan bill allowing for the postponement of elections unanimously passed the State Senate. The bill was expected to pass the House as well, but with an uncertain timeline.
Sununu’s emergency order on allowing the postponement of Town Meeting activities is the 83rd since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A full list can be seen here.