When a dedicated Senator gets involved, amazing things can happen in NH. On Nov 3, 2020, the Democratic front runner was within a couple dozen votes of claiming the 4th and final state representative seat from Windham. Understandably, she requested a recount. The result of the recount turned into a fire storm that set the state on the path of ordering the Secretary of State to do an audit of the votes in Windham.
You see the hand recount of the Windham votes conducted by the Secretary of State, showed a gain of approximately 300 votes for each of the four Republican candidates. It showed a loss of nearly 100 votes for the top Democratic candidate. Oddly enough the other three Democratic candidates gained a few votes in the recount.
This discrepancy began raising eyebrows. Pleas to the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Governor for a serious investigation, fell on deaf ears.
Interestingly enough, the concern on the part of the Republicans demanding an investigation was not that a representative seat was in jeopardy. Everyone agreed that the Democrat did not win either the machine count or the hand recount. The Republican concern is not just the representative race in Windham. What if there were issues all over the state? What if Jeanne Shaheen did not really win her Senate race? What if Annie Kuster or Chris Pappas did not win their Congressional races?
So Sen Guida picked a bill, SB 43, headed to the NH Senate floor. He had it pulled off the consent calendar by the prime sponsor and had the chair of the Senate Election Law Committee move to table the bill. The bill was about allocating the Electoral College votes by congressional district and was slated to be killed by an unanimous vote. However, Sen Guida had another purpose for the bill. He replaced the original language of the bill with language requiring the Secretary of State to conduct a public audit of the Windham ballots. The amended bill sailed through the NH Senate on an unanimous vote and was immediately sent over to the House.
Meanwhile the Democrat sponsored SB79 which would return to the town moderators the ability to verify the machine count before certifying the election sits on the chairman’s desk in the Senate Election Law Committee.
The Republicans have been successful at raising thousands of voices in support of their cause with many Democrats chiming in. NH Voting Rights and Election Integrity, a grassroots NH group, has been fighting this fight for many years, warning that such a catastrophe would some day happen if a system for auditing or verifying the machine count were not instituted.
The tragedy is that SB 43, as amended, only addresses this one situation. We don’t know how many other places had similar problems. The Windham situation highlights the issue. I hope it leads to serious legislative action to protect the integrity of the vote all over New Hampshire. Over vote results in Derry bring machine count accuracy into question. SB 79, HB 491, HB 524, and HB 480 are all bills that will move us in the direction of protecting voting rights and election integrity in NH. We must insist that the legislature take these bills seriously this year.