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New Hampshire: Protections Against Intimidation of Voters and Election Workers

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

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_pajnf8p 1 18 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; 52 U.S.C. § 10101(b); N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:40. The federal protections that apply to all states are explained here. The below addresses the laws and policies that serve as guardrails against specific threats of intimidation.

Coordinated Canvassing of Voters

While New Hampshire law does not explicitly prohibit canvassing, 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. footnote2_z1ryerl 2 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 104:28-a.

Intimidation of Poll Workers and Election Officials

New Hampshire law provides that any person who assaults an election worker carrying out the duties of the role is guilty of a felony. footnote3_hfhkrbj 3 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:41.  It is also a crime to threaten any harm to a person performing a government function with the purpose of influencing their actions or to use intimidation to hinder or interfere with a public servant performing their official functions. footnote4_ggue8bu 4 N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 640:3; 642:1.

Intimidation by Poll Watchers

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

  • Challengers must be designated by 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. footnote5_627ika6 5 N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 666:4; 666:5.
  • Challengers 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. footnote6_z4jzq48 6 N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 658:9; 659:21; 666:4; 666:5; 666:5a.  Except under narrow circumstances, only voters, election officers, or individuals assisting a voter are permitted within the guardrail. footnote7_3e0p6zb 7 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:21.
  • Challengers, like all others, are prohibited from engaging in electioneering within a polling place. footnote8_ihmqc9m 8 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:43.
  • It is also a crime to interfere or attempt to interfere with any voter when the voter is within the guardrail at a polling place. footnote9_itliko4 9 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:37.

Challenges to Voter Eligibility at the Polls

In New Hampshire, a voter may be challenged by any other 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, New Hampshire law limits the grounds on which a voter may be challenged. footnote10_ne6bkuf 10  N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:37.

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

  • Challenges must be made by signed affidavit, under an oath administered by an election official. The affidavit requires the individual bringing the challenge to cite the grounds and basis for the challenge, stating the specific source of their knowledge. footnote11_twbu1h2 11 N.H. Rev. Stat. §659:27-a.
  • Upon receiving a written challenge, the moderator, who oversees ward elections, determines if the challenge is well grounded. If so, the voter must sign an affidavit in order to cast a ballot. footnote12_zfnhmy5 12 N.H. Rev. Stat. § 659:27(II).

Voter Intimidation by Poll Workers

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

End Notes