We are in the final stretch of the audit of the Windham, NH election anomaly which is scheduled to end this Thursday, May 27.
So far, this much we know. We do have a machine problem here in New Hampshire, as folds in the absentee ballots can cause our machines to erroneously record a vote if the fold goes through the oval for a candidate. In hindsight, it was no coincidence that all four of the Republican candidates who were shorted votes, were shorted almost the exact same amount, approximately 300 votes. What was a coincidence was the candidate who improperly gained votes, Kristi St. Laurent, also gained a multiple of 100, when it was discovered that she had incorrectly received an extra 99 votes.
It appears that the discovery of the fold/crease issue was due to the unique position of the New Hampshire House of Representative’s race on the ballot being right at the junction of the middle and lower third of the ballot, where a crease could cause this issue. Because the NH House race is on the same area of the page in each town, we have looked at machine tape results from several other communities, but have not seen the same error rate.
What we have seen though, is that many towns have bizarre date/time stamps on their machine tapes. Two towns, Londonderry and Amherst set one of their machines to zero and counted ballots on October 17 and October 23 respectively, 17 and 11 days before the election! Yes, an incorrectly set time clock could account for this, but why is this an issues in 2 of the 4 towns we have checked? Also, on several of the other Londonderry machines, they set the machine to zero around 11 PM, four hours after the polls closed when all ballots should’ve already been entered into the machines. They then ran final tally tapes three hours later. Were there observers from each party still in the room when this was done, many hours after the polls had closed?
This is also not the only machine problem we have discovered, as not all of the four Windham machines incorrectly read a crease through a candidates oval as a vote. In fact, of the four Windham machines, the one that was purchased last (and is, therefore, the newest) was the one that miscounted votes the most. It was also discovered that this machine is the one out of the four that has gone the longest without being recalibrated. So, the activities at the audit on Monday and Tuesday are designed to look at the innards of these four machines to see if dust or electronic issues can be causing the difference between these machines.
Although the cause of the vote discrepancy does not appear to be due to fraud, that does not absolve the Secretary of State for his lack of curiosity in explaining this abnormality, when he dismissed the discrepancy stating “it didn’t change the outcome of the election.” It also does not excuse the Attorney General for refusing to look into this issue either. Both of these State officials should be ashamed of their track record in this matter, only investigating when forced to do so by the NH Legislature.
So what does New Hampshire do going forward? If we decide to continue with machine voting, should we keep these dinosaurs of a voting machine? Why is it that the newest Windham machine had the most errors? We have been told by the analysts that because they are so old they are much harder to corrupt. If we keep them, do we stop folding absentee ballots and put them in larger manila envelopes so that they can stay flat? Or, if we continue with folding, do we hand count folded absentee ballots instead?
Did other New Hampshire communities also experience flawed machine counting?
My sense is that there is a growing dissatisfaction with machine counting of citizens’ votes and as the decision to machine count versus hand count is made by each town, I suspect there will be a growing din from New Hampshire’s citizens to cast aside electronic voting and return to the trusted hand count method. It’s only what England, Canada and Australia do for their Federal elections.