Windham forensic audit now in second week

Julie Huss/Staff photoState police escort the ballot machines and cases into the facility in Pembroke where Windham's forensic election audit is taking place. The process is being led by teams put in place by both the town of Windham and state. The audit comes after vote tally discrepancies showed major differences between the town's numbers and those of a state recount following last November's general election

PEMBROKE — The second week of Windham’s forensic election audit process started Monday with cameras watching every move of officials and volunteers to make sure the work is transparent and available for all to watch.

The audit got started last week at the Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke, a facility chosen for its secure location.

The first day, May 11, began with the arrival and state police escort of the four AccuVote machines from Windham. The sealed boxes containing the 10,006 ballots from the Nov. 3 Windham election followed. The remainder of the first day then had officials accepting, checking and verifying the materials.

The first week continued with hand counting and numbering ballots, scanning the documents then running ballots through the four machines, with specific attention paid to matching numbers, ballot batches, machine counts and who was earmarked to handle the ballots.

The audit comes after months of uncertainty due to a state recount of District 7 state representative votes from the Nov. 3 election that showed big discrepancies between a state recount and the town’s numbers. 

Town vote counts gave the four Republican candidates running for District 7 state representative the top tallies and the win, but only 24 votes originally separated GOP candidate Julius Soti from Democrat Kristi St. Laurent, who then requested the recount, held Nov. 12.

The state’s recount number differed considerably from the Windham totals, giving GOP candidates nearly 300 more votes each, but St. Laurent lost 99.

Senate Bill 43’s signing last month by Gov. Chris Sununu last month paved the way for the audit.

Those leading the audit include Mark Lindeman chosen by Windham Selectmen to be the town’s designee; Harri Hursti picked by the state and Philip Stark, jointly chosen by Windham and the state. All men introduced themselves earlier in the week and gave a list of their experience with election and audit work.

Elected officials representing different communities and political parties from around the region, including Derry and Londonderry, were also on board and trained as audit volunteers. The public also had access to the audit.

Hursti, Stark and Lindeman regularly commented on the process, explaining details about security measures.

“We want to make sure we are thorough,” Stark said. “We are trying to be thorough.”

An occasional jam affected machines last week with one instance stalling 11 ballots from dropping into the proper spot, getting caught up instead in the chute. That led to those ballots getting counted twice. But officials then announced the error had been fixed and numbers continued to match up between ballots and machine logs.

Once ballots were run through the machines and the tally tapes were run, the first week ended with ballot results were read out loud. Teams of five handled this phase, with results being imported onto tally spreadsheets, all within public view and seen on livestream.

That work continued on Monday, with audit officials saying this phase of the work could take the most time. 

Throughout the audit, officials leading the teams continue to answer questions submitted by the public. All documents and additional video of the audit will also be made available. The livestream can be found at www.doj.nh.gov

 

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