Secretary of State Scanlan says upcoming election likely to be highly scrutinized
By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — The state’s upcoming primary and general elections are set to come under scrutiny following ballot counting issues uncovered in three communities.
Discrepancies made public in ballot totals in Windham, Bedford and just this week in Ward 6 in Laconia were all caused by human error and can in no way be considered intentional, according to the Secretary of State David Scanlan.
“Every election comes with a set of challenges,” Scanlan said. “The problem this time is the attitude of the general public towards the election and the fact that because voters are more skeptical of the process, there will be scrutiny and individuals watching this election cycle,” he said. Scanlan said.
Much of the skepticism is due to misinformation fueled on social media, he said. Some are intentional. Some don’t.
Most of the problems in the New Hampshire cases were the result of a lack of training, he said.
On Thursday, Scanlan’s office in Wolfeboro began what will be a dozen training sessions across the state for election workers, many of whom are volunteers.
Sessions are open to moderators, clerks, selectors, checklist supervisors and poll clerks and will also be held in Atkinson, Campton, Colebrook, Conway, Gorham, Haverhill, Keene, Manchester, Newport, Portsmouth and Rindge.
Although not compulsory, Scanlan said they were always well attended. And with so many people working in polls, human error is not unexpected, but it is important that it be discovered and errors corrected.
Windham, Bedford and Ward 6 in Laconia will all need to have election observers who will monitor the state’s primary elections on September 13, intervene if they see a problem and write a report on their findings. General state elections are held on November 8.
Some years no election observers are appointed and others there may be one or two, he said.
And while the three recent cases have garnered a lot of publicity, Scanlan said New Hampshire has the best and safest elections in the country.
In Laconia Ward 6, Attorney General John Formella this week demanded that his moderator Tony Felch resign, finding 179 uncounted ballots and a pattern of unintentional double counting of ballots in the 2020 election.
“Instead of the errors and failures described above being caused by conscious actions, they were prompted by Moderator Felch’s utter failure to understand the duties and workings of elections and his role as moderator,” said Formella in a press release.
In Bedford earlier this month, Formella released confirmation that an election official inadvertently moved a tray of 188 unprocessed mail-in ballots so they wouldn’t be cast and counted in the November general election. 2020. This was called a “serious error”.
In July 2021, a forensic audit addressed the unusual disparity between the results originally reported for the November 2020 race for the state’s representative in Windham and the official hand recount results.
The recount did not change the result, but ultimately showed the cause falling back on voting targets on some mail-in ballots, largely resulting from the use of a machine to fold the ballots by mail.
These types of cases can get a lot of public attention, but they’re rare, Scanlan said compared to the hundreds of communities where elections go off without a hitch.
“People should be very proud of the way we do things in New Hampshire,” said Scanlan, who served as undersecretary of state for 20 years before taking over from Bill Gardner in January and overseeing his part. elections.
The state uses paper ballots that can be relied upon during a recount and when questions are raised, he said.
The best way to combat any election misinformation is to educate voters about what’s happening in the election, Scanlan said.
“And as part of that, to be as transparent as possible in a process that was supposed to be transparent.
“There should be no mysteries or secrets. Anyone can observe the process on Election Day,” Scanlan said.
Scanlan formed the New Hampshire Select Committee on Voter Confidence. The mission, in addition to understanding the current electoral system, is to listen, ask questions and engage with the public to identify recommendations to address growing concerns about declining voter confidence.
Scanlan recommends calling your local election officials if you have questions or his office or checking the Secretary of State’s Election Information website here: https://www.sos.nh.gov/elections