Keene completes state-mandated voter purge, removing 6k from the checklist

·3 min read

Sep. 3—In accordance with state law, Keene officials recently purged the city's voter checklist ahead of the Sept. 13 primary election, removing more than 6,000 registered voters — roughly 30 percent of the Elm City's voting rolls — who had not cast a ballot in the past four years.

Municipalities statewide conduct the procedure every 10 years, City Clerk Patty Little said Thursday, to help keep voter checklists accurate.

"The purge is looking at the voting history of registered voters in Keene and seeing if they are participating," Little said in a phone interview.

In the last Keene voter purge in 2011, the city removed 2,714 people from the list, Assistant City Clerk Terri Hood said in an email Friday. A decade earlier, in 2001, that figure was 6,332.

"Based on this, I don't think the 2021 number is unusually high," Hood said. "I am not sure if 2011 is an outlier or not without more past data to look at."

During each purge, required since 1981 by RSA 654:39, voters who haven't participated in any elections in the preceding four years are removed from the checklist, Little said. But all of these voters are given notice in the mail of their impending removal and the opportunity to inform the clerk's office of their desire to remain on the voting rolls.

The city sent those letters to inactive voters in June 2021, Hood said, and they had to respond before September of that year. Anyone who responded had to go to City Hall and re-register to remain on the list, Hood said.

Only about a half-dozen people responded to letters that they wished to remain on the checklist, Little said. The city identified another 6,399 voters for removal. As of July 2021, Keene had a population of 23,106, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Little added that many of the voters who are removed tend to be college students who may have voted in an election while living in Keene, or former residents who have since moved, or others who may have died.

Anyone who is not registered to vote can do so the day of the election at their polling location. Residents will need photo identification and proof of domicile to register, according to the N.H. Secretary of State's Office. Voters can also sign an affidavit affirming their identity and residence if they don't have those documents with them.

New Hampshire residents can look up their voter registration status on the Secretary of State's website at app.sos.nh.gov/voterinformation.

Along with the once-a-decade voter purge, the city also recently redrew ward lines, another process that occurs every 10 years, coinciding with the U.S. Census. As a result, 1,273 voters were moved between Keene's wards to equalize the population, according to the city clerk's office. When the lines are redrawn, anyone who's ward changed is sent a notice in the mail.

In that way, Little said, the voter purge is also an effort to prevent the city from sending paper notices to potentially thousands of voters who no longer participate in elections, Little said, preserving paper and ink resources in the process.

According to Hood, Keene currently has around 14,500 voters: 2,943 in Ward 1; 2,800 in Ward 2; 2,711 in Ward 3; 2,770 in Ward 4; and 3,327 in Ward 5.

The Elm City's polling locations for the upcoming primary election are:

Ward 1: Blastos Community Room at 400 Marlboro St.

Ward 2: Keene Parks and Recreation Center at 312 Washington St.

Ward 3: Keene Middle School at 167 Maple Ave.

Ward 4: Symonds Elementary School at 79 Park Ave.

Ward 5: Monadnock Covenant Church at 90 Base Hill Road.

Hunter Oberst can be reached at 355-8585, or hoberst@keenesentinel.com.