LONDONDERRY — A malfunctioning ballot machine in Londonderry has made it impossible for town officials to provide official Election Day results until the next day.
Town Moderator Jonathan Kipp said the day ran flawlessly, but the technical error means a handful of poll workers will be working overnight to scan the ballots all over again.
“I feel bad for the people that had such a long day to then stay behind and do it,” Kipp said. “But we owe it to the people and we respect the process.”
Polls closed at 8 p.m. at Londonderry High School, and an estimated 16,000 ballots, including mail-in ballots, were sealed and sent off site to the town vault by the time officials realized one of four ballot machines was not supplying the ticker tape of results.
Kipp said the data on the memory card of the machine appeared to be corrupted.
Multiple attempts to reboot and repair the machine by poll workers Tuesday night were fruitless. Kipp said it’s likely they will need to run all of the nearly 16,000 ballots through working machines again in order to count the final results.
The town’s turnout at the polling station was estimated to be about 14,900 according to Town Council Chair John Farrell, which would beat the town's previous record of 14,416 votes cast in the high school in the 2016 Election.
The nature of the technical glitch and the difficulties inherent in re-scanning the ballots after everything was already packed up left Kipp and other officials scratching their heads about the legal questions surrounding a delay in the process.
After consulting Attorney Michael Ramsdell, they initially considered tabling the election — like a town meeting — and taking it up again Wednesday, with about five ballot machines from the vendor LHS, according to Farrell.
“With five ballot machines, it should take about three to four hours,” Farrell said.
But the state Attorney General’s office said the town would need to proceed with the re-scanning and final count Tuesday night if they cannot recover the data.
That means the town had to take the ballots out of the vault and bring them back to the high school with a police escort, shortly after 11 p.m., hours after it was locked up and the police left the building. Final results aren’t expected until Wednesday morning.
Londonderry didn’t experience the only delay Election night. Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand reported earlier Tuesday evening that due to a high number of absentee ballots and having to count an additional city charter issue before voters, they expected Manchester’s results to be delayed.
“We do expect results will be delayed as we have 16,000 absentee ballots that need to be counted. They’re working as fast as they can in between in-person voters,” Normand told Ink Link around 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said he heard from Manchester City Clerk’s office that they anticipated results would be late.
“We expect that Manchester will finish up tonight, sometime — it might be 2 in the morning, but they will finish. That’s a requirement. Once the election starts, it continues without interruption until the last ballot is counted,” Scanlan said
Calls and an email to Scanlan for comment on the Londonderry delay were not immediately returned Tuesday night.
Carol Robidoux, Manchester Ink Link, and Kenneth Tran contributed to this report.
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