Moderator Stands by Decision

Londonderry Town Moderator is standing by his decision to postpone the March 14 election to March 21.

Last week Moderator Bob Sauer and Assistant Moderator Cindi Rice Conley made the decision to postpone the town elections and warrant voting to March 21 after a nor’easter was forecasted for the original voting date. While Gov. Chris Sununu encouraged towns to go ahead and hold the election, several postponed the voting.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner warned town moderators that state law provided them no authority to do so, and that the act could leave them open to legal challenges. But State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, received permission to file a bill with the Legislature granting amnesty to these towns. Cordell Johnston, chief counsel for the New Hampshire Municipal Association, has also said that the towns acted within their legal purview.

At issue RSA 40, which allows the moderator to make changes to the date of deliberative sessions and town meetings. Opponents of the postponements argue that the RSA gives no provision for the actual election day, which must always take place on the second Tuesday in March. RSA Chapter 652 of the state election law states, “The Secretary of State with the advice and approval of the Attorney General shall prepare a political calendar for state and town elections setting forth the dates when action required under the election laws must be taken.” Gardner has stated publicly that this chapter of the election law mandates the second Tuesday elections

Sauer said in a phone interview Monday that he didn’t expect a challenge from the state for postponing the voting. “The governor stated in a conference call that there would be no legal challenges to towns for moving the elections,” he said.

He’s not so sure about the candidates themselves, noting, “Someone could look at it after the fact and say that the postponement had an impact on the outcome.”

But Sauer has no regrets. “Given the information we had Monday, given the forecast, it was the best decision to make at the time,” he said.