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New Hampshire: Protections Against Intimidation of Voters and Election Workers

This resource details state and federal laws protecting against the intimidation of voters and election workers and the disruption of the voting process.

Last Updated: May 21, 2024
Published: October 28, 2022
View the entire Laws Protecting Voters and Election Workers from Intimidation series

Voters in New Hampshire have the right to vote free from intimidation under federal and state law. footnote1_dNeOuGGMEgIE1See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; 52 U.S.C. § 10101(b); N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:40(II).  The federal protections that apply to all states are explained here. The following actions are specifically prohibited by New Hampshire law:

  • Threatening force, violence, or any tactic of coercion or intimidation to knowingly induce or compel another person to vote or refrain from voting, vote or refrain from voting for any particular candidate or ballot measure, or refrain from registering to vote.footnote2_wzJHaKmDCbRr2N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:40(II).
  • Threatening harm to a voter with the purpose of influencing their action, decision, opinion, or vote.footnote3_yEU93Y5UPG2d3N.H. Rev. Stat. § 640:3(I)(a).
  • Interfering or attempting to interfere with a voter within the guardrail at a polling place or attempting to induce a voter to show how they marked their ballot.footnote4_gAsi05ROWLow4N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:37.
  • Providing information known to be false or misleading to attempt to induce another person to refrain from registering to vote or from voting at the proper place or time.footnote5_jKZGyGi7ph8K5N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:40(III)(b)(c).
  • Electioneering inside a polling place or within a 10-foot corridor around a polling place.footnote6_u6WhtQwx3qng6N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:43(I), (II).
  • Government employees acting in a way intended to influence the vote of any voter.footnote7_sT8CUBWGjynC7N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:44-a.

The information below addresses the laws that serve as guardrails against specific threats of intimidation.

Challenges to Voter Eligibility at the Polls

In New Hampshire, a voter may be challenged by another voter registered in the town or ward in which the election is held, an election official, or an official challenger appointed by a political committee or the attorney general. However, state law also provides for some guardrails. For example, New Hampshire prohibits challenging another person’s right to register to vote or to vote based on information the challenger knows to be false or misleading. footnote8_sY4oNMzmw7FS8N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:40(III)(a). No voter or observer can challenge a voter’s qualifications at the Election Day voter registration table.footnote9_pelEcluAIrOx9N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:27(III).

New Hampshire law also outlines the process for mounting a challenge and what standard of proof is required to sustain it:

  • A challenge may only be asserted based on personal knowledge or other probable cause that the challenged voter is ineligible to vote.footnote10_nZZCQBpMtDTr10N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:27-a(II).
  • Challenges must be made by signed affidavit, under an oath administered by an election official. The affidavit requires the challenger to include the reason that the voter is not eligible and the specific source of the challenger’s personal knowledge or information supporting that reason.footnote11_gkHCawUduNed11N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:27-a(I).
  • Upon receiving a written challenge, the moderator, who oversees ward elections, determines if the challenge is well grounded.footnote12_jYWvdnaShPhT12N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:27(II).

Intimidation of Poll Workers and Election Officials

In addition to federal protections against the intimidation of election workers, under New Hampshire law, it is a crime to:

  • Assault a local official carrying out the duties of their role at an election.footnote13_mjaLudqm1hcB13N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:41.
  • Threaten force, violence, or any tactic of coercion or intimidation to knowingly discourage, interfere with, or compel election workers from engaging in or completing their election-related duties.footnote14_sSBbJmsf84Zy14N.H. Rev. Stat § 659:40-b.
  • Harm a person performing a government function with the purpose of influencing their actions or use intimidation to hinder or interfere with a public servant performing their official functions.footnote15_yu8htk55UO9N15N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 640:3(I)(a), 642:1(I).

Voter Intimidation by Poll Workers

The Brennan Center published a detailed resource on the rules and constraints for New Hampshire poll workers here.

Intimidation by Poll Watchers

In New Hampshire, the official term for a poll watcher or observer is “challenger.” State law limits who may serve as an observer and what observers may do:

  • Observers must be designated by a signed statement in advance of the election by the attorney general or the state, city, or town committee of a political party, depending on the level of election.footnote16_mWf7iH6xyvpd16N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 666:4, 666:5.
  • Observers have the right to see and hear a voter as they cast a ballot, but they may not come within six feet of voting booths or the ballot box, an area cordoned off by a physical guardrail.footnote17_izbfOW7kXJrp17N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 658:9, 659:21, 666:4, 666:5a. Except under narrow circumstances, only voters, election officers, or individuals assisting a voter are permitted within the guardrail.footnote18_tgUFaQMKOvQE18N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:21.
  • Observers, like all others, are prohibited from engaging in electioneering within a polling place.footnote19_ur1uRQAskGib19N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:43(I).
  • It is a crime for observers, like all others, to interfere or attempt to interfere with any voter when the voter is within the guardrail at a polling place.footnote20_grX7NJXsAzea20N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:37.

Door-to-Door Intimidation

Both state and federal law prohibit canvassing efforts that are used to intimidate voters. Any voter who receives a visit from a privately organized canvassing group does not have to answer any questions and should report any incidents of intimidation to their local officials. Additionally, it is a felony to impersonate any law enforcement officer or government investigator in New Hampshire.footnote21_e98MUMesZpjh21N.H. Rev. Stat. § 104:28-a.

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