Ready, set, vote: Primary elections underway today

Staff photo by Casey junkins City voters can take free rides to their polling locations on Nashua Transit System buses today to participate in the primary election. If a voter cannot use any of the fixed routes in the city, he or she may call Kristi Gillette at 603-821-2030 for further assistance.

NASHUA – City residents who need a lift to the polls for today’s primary election can ride Nashua Transit System buses for free, while anyone encountering voting problems can dial a hotline to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

With close to 20 percent of registered voters expected to participate in the primary election, a number which would be a state record for a midterm primary, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced Monday the Election Day Hotline will be staffed from 7 a.m to 8 p.m. Officials will be ready to take calls from voters and election officials as issue may arise.

New Hampshire Department of Justice lawyers will address each call or message received. The AG’s office is also deploying a team of lawyers and investigators to assist local election officials and to address any issues that may arise. The number is 1-866-868-3703.

This effort comes as New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner has said he expects a record number of Democrats to turn out for the election, pushing the total estimated voter turnout to 19 percent of the total registered voter population. Gardner estimates 90,000 Democrats will come out to vote, given the contested gubernatorial race between former state senator Molly Kelly and former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand for the right to run against incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November.

While the Democrats will reach a likely record on Tuesday with 90,000 ballots cast, Republicans will likely fall far shot of their records with 90,000 expected votes. Prior contested midterm primaries saw multiple GOP challengers in races in which Democratic incumbents ran unopposed.

The anticipated wave of Democratic voters comes as New Hampshire is in the midst of dealing with a lawsuit over, SB 3, a voter registration law that critics claim discourages college students from voting. Arguments wrapped up last week in the Hillsborough Superior Court-North in Manchester, as Democrats hope to get an injunction against the law.

Sununu signed SB 3 into law last year, and almost immediately the League of Women Voters and the state’s Democratic Party joined a lawsuit, along with several individual voters. The law establishes requirements for new voters to prove their residency or domicility in New Hampshire. The potential criminal penalties portion of SB 3 has already been halted. A ruling on the motion may come in time for the November general election.

City Clerk Patricia Piecuch said that Nashua has gone through two elections since SB 3 became law, including the last round of city elections. She said there have been no noticeable problems related to the law.

The Kelly/Marchand race features candidates who share many of the same ideas, including favoring the legalization of recreational marijuana.

For her part, Kelly lists some of her goals as follows:

 requiring a $15 per hour minimum wage;

 stopping vouchers for private or religious schools; and

 ensuring paid family and medical leave for all employees.

Marchand, meanwhile, wants:

 full government funding of abortion with absolutely no restrictions;

 a ban “military-style” weapons, while enforcing “universal” background checks for gun purchases; and

 allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Aside from the Kelly, Marchand fight, Libertarians Aaron Day of Bedford and Jilletta Jarvis of Sandown are squaring off in the governor’s race.

Neither U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., nor U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., faces re-election in 2018.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., does not have a primary challenger for her 2nd Congressional District seat. Seven Republicans are fighting for a chance to take on Kuster. Nashua’s Steve Negron is in the mix along with Robert Burns of Manchester, Brian Belanger of New Boston, Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton, and Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord. Nashua’s Jay Mercer and Colebrook’s Gerard Beloin are also running.

District 2 Libertarians Tom Alciere of Hudson and Justin O’Donnell of Nashua are making a race in their primary.

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., is not seeking re-election in the 1st Congressional District.

District 1, which includes the town of Merrimack, sees Republicans Andy Sanborn of Bedford and Eddie Edwards of Dover running high-profile campaigns. In the crowded Democratic primary, Manchester’s Chris Pappas and Portsmouth’s Maura Sullivan are leading the way.

Both Democrats and Republicans have a contested primary for the District 12 New Hampshire state Senate seat. Incumbent Kevin Avard of Nashua is running against Nashua Alderman Richard Dowd, while Democrats Tom Falter of Greenville and Melanie Levesque of Brookline are on the ballot.

On Nashua’s state House side there are a few contested races in the primary. Each ward elects three representatives in November. Ward 2 has four Democrats running, Paul Bergeron, Jordan Thompson, Ray Newman and Sue Newman. In Ward 5, Democrats Allison Nutting-Wong, Dan Toomey, Josh Mercer and Michael Pedersen are running.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.

WHERE TO VOTE:

According to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office, polls will be open today as follows:

 Nashua: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 Amherst: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 Bedford: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 Brookline: 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

 Hollis: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 Hudson: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 Litchfield: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 Lyndeborough: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 Merrimack: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 Milford: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 Wilton: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.