Supervisors of the Checklist: Understanding the Amendments to RSA 654:27 & 654:28

Margaret M.L. Byrnes

In 2016, two house bills significantly altered the requirements for holding sessions to correct the checklist: House Bills 1468 and 1144 were passed, which amended RSA 654:27, RSA 654:28, RSA 654:38, and RSA 654:39. These statutes govern procedure for checklist sessions prior to state elections, but also apply to local elections through RSA 669:5. The biggest changes were to RSA 654:27 and :28, which involved the timing for holding the sessions prior to the election day, the notice requirements, and the “21-day exception.” 

First, although the supervisors still must hold the session for correction of the checklist 6 to 13 days prior to the election, the session can now be held on any of the days that fall 6 to 13 days before the election—in other words, that day no longer must be a Saturday, but it could be. Furthermore, the duration of each session must be at minimum 30 minutes, but can be longer at the discretion of the supervisors of the checklist. 

Second, notice of the sessions must still be posted in “2 appropriate places”; however, now one of those places “shall be the city or town’s Internet website, if such exists.” In the alternative to posting in two places, the municipality can opt to give the previously-required form of notice: notice in a “newspaper of general circulation in the city or town.” 

Third is what I have dubbed the “21-day exception.” As stated above, the statutes require a session for correction of the checklist to be held 6 to 13 days prior to the election. However, House Bill 1468, amending RSA 654:27, now provides the following exception:

[W]henever more than one meeting is required within a 21-day period, the first required meeting may serve to fulfill the requirements of the remaining meetings.

This new provision removes the requirement for more than one checklist session during a 21-day period. This would be particularly appealing to supervisors in SB 2 municipalities, where three checklist sessions are required throughout town meeting season: one prior to the opening of the candidate filing period, one prior to the deliberative session, and one prior to the ballot voting. The new “21-day exception,” if applicable, would allow the supervisors in SB 2 municipalities to dispense with one of the three sessions.

However, it appears that neither the 21-day exception nor the deletion of the Saturday session requirement, applies to town meeting and town elections. 

To reach this conclusion, we must start with RSA 669:5, which, as stated above, applies to local elections the procedures for checklist sessions described in RSA Chapter 654. RSA 669:5 states, in part:

The supervisors shall prepare, post, and revise the checklist for a town meeting or election in the same manner as for a state election as provided in RSA 654:25-654:31, provided, however, that the session for correction shall be held on Saturday 6 to 13 days prior to the election. (emphasis added)

Therefore, at first glance, it may have appeared that all the new amendments to RSA 654:27 and :28 applied to local elections too—since RSA 654:25 - :31 are incorporated into RSA 669:5. However, RSA 669:5 was not also amended—leaving intact the requirement that a session “be held on Saturday 6 to 13 days prior to the election.” Therefore, it appears that, in local elections, supervisors must still hold their sessions on the Saturday 6 to 13 days prior to the election, with no exception where more than one session is required during a 21-day period. In other words, the language in RSA 669:5 about the timing of the sessions likely still governs local elections. 

However, because RSA 669:5 otherwise requires the supervisors to follow RSA 654:25-654:31 for local elections, the other amendments to the statutes, including notice and duration of the sessions, should apply to local elections. For more information on the deadlines for holding and providing notice of checklist sessions, please refer to NHMA’s Important Dates Calendars, available on our website at https://www.nhmunicipal.org/resources#ImportantDateCalendars.

Margaret M.L. Byrnes is Staff Attorney II with the New Hampshire Municipal Association.  She may be contacted at 800.852.3358 ext 3408 or at legalinquiries@nhmunicipal.org