The Town of Henniker had to remove its sample ballot from the Town Website just days before Town election this coming Tuesday, March 8th. The problem? Warrant article 5 is a citizen petition to clarify and amend the definitions of agriculture and agrotourism. The Planning Board does not recommend article 5 for passage because the change favors property owners over the Planning Board; and because they have proposed amending definitions for agriculture and agrotourism in their own favor in Warrant article 4 (which they do recommend).
After Warrant article 4, and before Warrant article 5, in bold print, the sample ballot reads “YOU HAVE NOW COMPLETED VOTING.”
This effectively invalidates warrant article 5 from consideration by making it appear as if it is not part of the official ballot.
Citizen activists have contacted the town, state, and even the voting rights division of the Federal government with regard to what appears to be a blatant attempt to suppress voting on a citizen’s petition warrant article that the town opposes.
Was the Town of Henniker caught red-handed or are they grossly incompetent?
Ballots are reviewed by the select-board prior to printing and (presumably) reviewed after. So the improper copy appears to have been approved for printing, printed, and even found its way on to the town website for voters to review. Printers do not as a rule, make any changes to documents without submitting them for review and approval; ballots, I would hope, attract a more serious level of scrutiny, at least by printers, who are motivated to satisfy their customers.
Town boards have no such inclination, less so in the Town of Henniker.
Assuming ballots can be reprinted and delivered in time the matter of who pays for this is as yet unanswered.
The printer will have the original proofs to identify the source of the error. If the proofs match the ballot printed the taxpayers of Henniker will have two problems, neither of them new. They will have new evidence that they are meant to be ruled by a tyrannical leadership bent on forcing its will upon them by whatever means are at their disposal, and they will have to shoulder the financial burden (in this case the reprinting and delivery on short notice) of new ballots as the result of another arbitrary exercise of that leadership.
As to the deliberate nature of the act, if proven? The State of New Hampshire is not known for its commitment to punishing towns, boards, or election officials for acts of subterfuge against their own residents. But should the NH Secretary of State, NH Attorney General, or even the US Attorney General’s Office Voting Rights Division choose to investigate, the taxpayers will have to bear the burden of those costs as well.
One more point. The Planning board is meeting the day after the election. One of the items on their agenda is to amend the towns standards of review by adding a new section titled Agrotourism uses. Should their approved Warrant article 4 fail to pass, it appears that they intend to insert similar language regardless.
Intent of Warrant Article 4
Note on the planning board meeting for Wed March 9th in The Villager.