I live in Nashua, NH and vote in Ward 9. I have voted in person in every election since I moved to Nashua in 2008. I did not vote in the state primary in September, because I am registered as a Democrat but my plan at that time was to vote for a Republican candidate in the general election on November 3rd. Because I only made that decision after the deadline for a party affiliation change (June 2), I opted not to participate in the Democratic Primary.
On November 3rd, my husband went to vote at the Ward 9 precinct around 11 a.m. No poll workers said anything to him about the fact that he was not wearing a mask. He walked into the building without a mask, walked past a police officer who made no effort to stop him or ask him to wear a mask; he walked up the stairs and into the voting area. He gave his name, showed his photo ID and was handed a ballot and given voting instructions.
I went to the polls at 5:15 p.m. to vote. Upon approaching the entrance to the door of the building, I was told by a poll worker that I had to wear a mask to go inside to vote. I stated that I was under the impression that there was to be an alternative procedure for people unable to wear masks. The poll worker informed me that “curbside voting ended at 5 p.m.” I stated that I was unaware of any schedule restrictions on when someone could vote if they were unable to wear a mask, and the worker repeated that they had a curbside option but that it ended at 5 p.m. I expressed my concern that there was no effort made within the city to notify residents of time restrictions on what hours they could vote with the alternative option; the poll worker was then joined by a second poll worker, who informed me that my only option to vote was to “wear a mask” and that it would “only take 5 minutes and to just take one and wear it.”
I took a mask that was available at the table in the lobby and walked in, but I did not put the mask on as I am unable to wear one. When I reached the entrance to the actual voting area, a Nashua police officer told me I had to wear a mask. I explained that I was unable to wear one and that I was told by the poll workers outside that I had to in order to vote. The police officer very politely explained that I should have explained that to the poll workers outside and they would have made arrangements for me to vote without coming in and wearing a mask. I told him that I did explain it, and they never told me anything about an alternative option. I asked what the protocol was and he said that if I was unable to come in and wear a mask, that they would call up, retrieve a ballot for me, and bring it down. Now, had I known this was an option I may have considered it, however there was no infrastructure set up outside the building to accommodate voting– no table, no ballot box, no way of me easily being able to fill out a ballot short of sitting on the ground. Also, I was concerned that were I to go back outside and request a ballot, there were no protocols in place to guarantee and protect the integrity and security of my ballot.
I should note that the police officer was very polite and courteous and helpful in explaining that there were alternative options. He did not state anything about the process involved that would protect the ballot, and I was concerned that my ballot would not have been handled appropriately so I asked him if I could walk in and vote wearing a scarf instead of a mask. He said that was fine and allowed me to enter and vote. I was able to vote, wearing a scarf, that may not have entirely covered my face. I then left the precinct and called the NH Attorney General’s hotline to report my situation.