New Hampshire Republicans want to make it harder to count absentee ballots

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Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire advanced a bill that would ban officials from preprocessing absentee ballots in future elections.

Republicans in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are advancing a bill that would prevent election officials from preprocessing absentee ballots ahead of Election Day, WMUR reported, a move that would almost certainly delay election results.

During the 2020 election cycle, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a law allowing officials to open mailed ballots as they arrived and ensure they were properly filled out. Those ballots weren't counted until Election Day, but taking that first step to get them ready made it easier to handle the record number of absentee ballots used by voters during the coronavirus pandemic.

WMUR reported that on Wednesday, the GOP-controlled House Election Law Committee advanced a bill that would ban officials from preprocessing absentee ballots in future elections, with the bill's Republican sponsor saying that preprocessing is "rife with issues."

"I am a firm believer that in New Hampshire, as much of Election Day has to happen on Election Day as possible," GOP state Rep. Ross Berry said.

Ahead of the 2020 election, Donald Trump had said that votes shouldn't be counted after Election Day, and that whatever the results were at the end of election night should be final.

"I think it's a terrible thing when people or states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over," Trump said on Nov. 1. "I think it's terrible when we can't know the results of an election the night of the election in a modern-day age of computers."

Trump ignored the fact that federal election law allows states more than a month after an election to count ballots and finalize their results.

In 2020, critical swing states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin didn't allow for absentee ballots to be preprocessed before Election Day. Since in-person votes cast on Election Day were expected to favor Trump, Axios reported Nov. 1, it was his plan to prematurely declare victory before absentee ballots were counted — something he did ultimately attempt to do.

As for New Hampshire, Berry said that because the use of absentee ballots is expected to decline in future elections, election officials do not need extra time to preprocess those ballots.

"The reality is, we will begin to return to normal," Berry told WMUR. "We will have a midterm election. Our very capable election workers will be able to handle this."

But Democratic state lawmakers, who oppose the measure, said the change adds an unnecessary burden for election workers.

"I happen to believe that if we can give our hard-working election officials an opportunity to pre-process ballots, we ought to do that," said Rep. David Cote of Nashua.

This effort is the latest from Republican state lawmakers across the country seeking to make it harder to vote in the wake of Trump's loss.

Republicans have filed more than 300 voter suppression bills in state legislatures across the country, and such bills have become law in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Montana.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.