A town of 14,000 people in New Hampshire is now part of Trump’s post-election fantasia | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

The last time Windham, N.H., was at the center of presidential politics, it was because it was the proving ground for Corey Lewandowski’s style of smash-mouth politics. The campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 sprint through the Republican primaries earned a write-up in the New York Times for his aggressive efforts to upend politics-as-usual in the 14,000-person town. Now Windham is central to Trump in a different way. The former president’s always-shifting efforts to prove that he didn’t lose the 2020 election, eternally encumbered by the fact that he did, have settled for the time being on an anomalous recount in Windham’s 2020 state representative race. “You’re watching New Hampshire,” he told customers at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., during an apparently spontaneous speech there last week. “They found a lot of votes up in New Hampshire just now. You saw that.” This, he said, was further evidence that the 2020 election was “rigged.” But the reality of the situation in Windham, perhaps predictably, is more complex than the former president suggests. The problem in Windham arose after a Democratic candidate named Kristi St. Laurent requested a recount in the race to seat four members of the state legislature. Eight candidates ran, four from each major party, with the top four winning election. After the votes were initially tallied, St. Laurent came in fifth, by a margin of 24 votes. After the recount, though, she lost by more than 400. How? Because the recount found that all four Republicans had actually earned about 300 more votes than were included in the initial tally — and that St. Laurent had been allocated 99 more votes than she deserved.

Full Article: A town of 14,000 people in New Hampshire is now part of Trump’s post-election fantasia – The Washington Post

New Hampshire: Windham stands pat on audit choice after raucous meeting | Josie Albertson-Grove/New Hampshire Union Leader

After almost 500 people showed up to a meeting to push the Windham Board of Selectmen to reconsider its pick for an election audit team Monday night, selectmen decided to stick with their choice. Last month, the board chose Mark Lindeman, of the nonpartisan election-technology research group Verified Voting, to represent the town in an audit of its 2020 election results. On Monday, the state named Finnish data security expert Harri Hursti as its representative. Hursti was a member of the Verified Voting’s non-governing board of advisers until November, according to a Verified Voting spokeswoman. The audit was ordered in a state law passed after a recount in the Nov. 3 election turned up about 300 additional votes for each of four Republicans in the race for Windham’s seats in the state House of Representatives. Under the law, the state and the town each appointed one member to the audit panel. Those two members will choose a third member. The audit must be completed this month. Critics have pointed to the vote discrepancy as proof of claims that the presidential election was tainted by inaccurate vote tallying by machines. Selectman Bruce Breton was the lone opponent in the 3-1 vote for Lindeman last month. Breton supported Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, an inventor and computer scientist who was involved in the Maricopa County, Ariz., recount and was on a list of experts Secretary of State Bill Gardner said were credible — though some Democratic leaders consider Pulitzer as a conservative partisan without election expertise. “We have received over 3,000 emails from everywhere,” Breton said at Monday night’s meeting. “And they agree with me that we made the wrong pick.”

Full Article: Windham stands pat on audit choice after raucous meeting | Voters First | unionleader.com

New Hampshire: Windham selectman calls foul over audit representative selection | Julie Huss/The Eagle-Tribune

A selectman hopes to change the outcome of a recent vote to choose a representative to participate in a forensic audit of Windham’s election results and voting machines from the Nov. 3 general election. Bruce Breton released a statement this week, asking his fellow selectmen to reconsider a 3-1 vote taken April 26 that selected Mark Lindeman, co-director of the organization Verified Voting, as the town’s designee for the upcoming audit, citing conflicts of interest. … Breton said Lindeman has a definite conflict of interest representing Windham and New Hampshire’s citizens as a forensic auditor, citing Lindeman joining in to sign a letter to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, expressing opposition to the election audit currently taking place in that state’s Maricopa County. In the letter sent to Fann in Arizona, Verified Voting joined in with a long list of election law experts, administrators, voting rights experts and national security representatives to voice concern about the public being restricted from having access to the audit currently taking place on 2.1 million ballots from the November election. The letter urged Fann to grant public observation to representatives from nonpartisan American organizations and education institutions. “This audit, which will include recounting ballots cast for U.S. President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, is a matter of concern to all Americans,” the letter read. “The Arizona Senate must not prohibit access to election administration and voting equipment experts from nonpartisan American organizations that support free, fair and secure elections.”

Full Article: Windham selectman calls foul over audit representative selection | New Hampshire | eagletribune.com

New Hampshire: Windham picks designee to work on forensic audit | Julie Huss/Eagle-Tribune

The town has chosen its official representative to help get answers about what happened with vote tally discrepancies after the general election last November. At a meeting Monday night, Selectmen voted 3-1 to choose Mark Lindeman and his team as the town designee for an upcoming forensic audit to determine what happened to cause major differences between the town vote count and a state recount in the Rockingham County District 7 race. Selectmen Ross McLeod, Heath Partington, and Roger Hohenberger all voted to support Lindeman as the top choice with Bruce Breton putting his faith instead behind another interested candidate, Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, as the town audit designee. Selectman Jennifer Simmons did not attend Monday night’s meeting. Candidates hoping to get the audit job presented information to Selectmen last week. Public input was also considered. Lindeman, an acting director of Verified Voting, came out on the top of the list for McLeod, Partington and Hohenberger, with all citing his level of expertise in this type of election audit work. In his presentation to Selectmen, Lindeman said Windham faced “a riddle” and added all the evidence will be scrutinized to “follow the facts and find out where they lead.”

Full Article: Windham picks designee to work on forensic audit | New Hampshire | eagletribune.com

New Hampshire: Governor signs Windham election audit bill | Kevin Landrigan/Union Leader

A forensic audit of election results from Windham will begin later this spring after Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation Monday aimed at getting to the bottom of a major ballot discrepancy. A hand recount three weeks after the Nov. 3 election found all four Republicans running for seats in the New Hampshire House had gotten about 300 more votes than were reported from automatic vote-counting machines on election night. Last month, Secretary of State Bill Gardner proposed a process to conduct the audit, which he said would be New Hampshire’s first in the 45 years he has been serving as the state’s top election official. “New Hampshire elections are safe, secure, and reliable,” Sununu said in a statement after signing the amended bill (SB 43). “Out of the hundreds of thousands of ballots cast this last year, we saw only very minor, isolated issues — which is proof our system works,” Sununu said. “This bill will help us audit an isolated incident in Windham and keep the integrity of our system intact.” Gardner and Windham conservative activist Ken Eyring came up with a process that would require a team of hand-picked forensic analysts to examine the four AccuVote machines used to count ballots in Windham. Among the potential analysts were two experts, Col. Phil Waldron and Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, who were involved in challenging the results of presidential voting in several states last fall.

Full Article: Sununu signs Windham election audit bill | State | unionleader.com

New Hampsire House Election Law Committee approves detailed forensic audit of Windham election results | John DiStaso/WMUR

The House Election Law Committee on Wednesday approved and sent to the full House legislation outlining a full, detailed forensic audit by a team of experts of the Nov. 3 election results in the town of Windham. The panel on a 20-0 vote signed off on a completely rewritten Senate Bill 43. Responding to pleas from Windham residents, and supported by Secretary of State William Gardner, the bill now direct the performance of an audit of the ballot counting machines and their memory cards and the hand tabulations of ballot for the election in the southern New Hampshire community. The bill calls for the formation of a “forensic election audit team” of three people – one designated by the town, one designated jointly by the secretary of state and attorney general and one person selected jointly the other entities. These may well be national experts. It is the latest development to address a controversy that arose after a recount of the Rockingham District 7 House seat showed four of eight candidates each receiving an additional 300 votes and three others with much smaller increases more typical of a recount, while the candidate who requested the recount, Democrat Kristi St. Laurent, losing 99 votes. St. Laurent appealed to the Ballot Law Commission, which upheld the results of the recount in certifying the four people seated by the House, but requested an investigation by the attorney general’s office, which has now been undertaken.

Full Article: House Election Law Committee approves detailed forensic audit of Windham election results

New Hampshire: Republican voting bills draw opposition from college students during committee hearings | John DiStaso/WMUR

College students charged Monday that their right to vote in New Hampshire is again under attack through the latest group of bills that Republicans say are aimed an ensuring the integrity of the state’s elections. With the validity of the November election nationally having come under criticism by former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters, Republicans in the Granite State are reigniting efforts to ensure what they say is election integrity. The House Election Law Committee, now with a Republican majority, took several hours of testimony Monday on bills that the sponsors said would ensure that people voting in New Hampshire are residents of New Hampshire but opponents said were partisan attempts to disenfranchise voters, particularly college students. The committee also voted along partisan lines recommending the full House kill Democratic-sponsored bills to allow the permanent use of “no-excuse,” universal absentee voting in future New Hampshire elections. Details on these and other committee votes appear at the end of this report. The committee took testimony on House Bill 362, which would repeal the use of a student’s address at an educational institution as his or her place of domicile for voting purposes. Current law allows a student to claim domicile in the New Hampshire city or town in which he or she lives while attending the institution.

Full Article: Republican voting bills draw opposition from college students during committee hearings

New Hampshire: Voters, officials look into vote count discrepancy in Windham | Cherise Leclerc/WMUR

Voters in Windham have continued to call for answers over a discrepancy in votes between election night and a subsequent recount. During a meeting held on Monday night, the Deputy Moderator said they still do not know which vote count is correct. Officials with the company that owns the voting machines, LHS Associates in Salem, were as the meeting held Monday. They explained how the machines work and the next steps, saying they are in support of a 100% audit of the election results. A recount of the state representative race found about 300 additional votes for each of the winning candidates. Town Clerk Nicole Bottai explained the security behind the four machines that have been in use for 20 years.

Full Article: Voters, officials look into vote count discrepancy in Windham

New Hampshire: Sununu addresses Windham recount results that show Republicans were shorted votes | Paul Steinhauser/Concord Monitor

Gov. Chris Sununu says he won’t let “slip by” an apparent voting discrepancy in a state House of Representatives race in Windham – which has grabbed national exposure and even caught the attention of former President Donald Trump. “We’re not going to let that slip by. We’re going to attack it, at all levels, and make sure that we really get to the root of the problem,” New Hampshire’s three-term Republican governor said Thursday at a news conference. “And make sure that, even though it may have been a small problem, that it isn’t systematic across anything.” The saga began on Election Day last November when Democrat Kristi St. Laurent, a candidate for one of four seats to represent Rockingham District 7 in the state House, was just 24 votes shy of winning. The narrow margin triggered a recount of the ballots. Here’s where it gets interesting. The recount discovered that four long-serving AccuVote optical scanning machines that were used on Election Day shorted the four GOP candidates in the contest between 297 and 303 votes. Three other Democratic candidates were shorted 18 to 28 votes, but the recound showed St. Laurent was credited with 99 more votes than were cast for her. The result of the recount – which was witnessed by dozens of officials and observers – was, to say the least, puzzling. With state law only allowing for a single recount in political races, New Hampshire’s Ballot Law Commission accepted the recount’s results. But Republicans asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the matter.

Full Article: On the Trail: Sununu addresses Windham recount results that show Republicans were shorted votes

New Hampshire State Senator introduces bill to prohibit voting machines | Local News | Manchester Times

Senator Janice Bowling (Rep.) 16th District has introduced a bill that would require the state to only use watermarked paper ballots that would be hand marked by the voter.  SB1510 was introduced to the General Assembly Feb. 11. “As introduced, abolishes early voting; prohibits the use of voting machines; requires elections to be conducted with watermarked paper ballots that are hand-marked by the voter. – Amends TCA Title 2,” the description reads. According to the bill text, “A voter who claims, by reason of illiteracy or physical disability other than blindness, to be unable to mark the ballot to vote as the voter wishes and who, in the judgment of the officer of elections, is so disabled or illiterate, may have the ballot marked by a person of the voter’s selection or by one (1) of the judges of the voter’s choice in the presence of either a judge of a different political party or, if such judge is not available, an election official of a different political party.”

Full Article: Bowling introduces bill to prohibit voting machines | Local News | manchestertimes.com

New Hampshire: Gardner Holds Onto Role As Nation’s Longest Serving Secretary of State | Casey McDermott/New Hampshire Public Radio

Wednesday marked another career milestone for New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who sailed without opposition into a 23rd term, upholding his position as the longest-serving Secretary of State in the nation. The moment stood in sharp contrast to the start of Gardner’s most recent term, when he just barely fended off a challenge from former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern. Joining the Legislature for an unprecedented outdoor Organization Day, held on an athletic field at the University of New Hampshire to accommodate concerns about COVID-19, Gardner started off his latest term by asked the newly seated lawmakers to appreciate the historical significance of the task ahead. “You’ll have something for your children, your grandchildren, that you’re going to remember and pass onto them,” Gardner said. “At a time when there were a lot of struggles, a lot of anxiety, a lot of disagreement, but we’re getting through it. And it’s going to be up to all of you to do your share as part of that and honor the great state that all our voters have honored, and have chosen you to represent them in this biennium.”

Full Article: Gardner Holds Onto Role As Nation’s Longest Serving Secretary of State | New Hampshire Public Radio

New Hampshire Officials Study How Post-Election Audits Would Work Here, As In Dozens of Other States | Casey McDermott/New Hampshire Public Radio

New Hampshire is in the minority of states that don’t routinely audit their election results. But on Monday, the Secretary of State’s office tested out how such an audit might work in future races. Teams from two election technology companies — Clear Ballot and Nordic Innovation Labs  — ran a test audit on the results of five local races from 2018, in a public session at the State Archives. (A recording of the session can be viewed online here.) A new law requires the Secretary of State’s office “to study the use of high speed, optical/digital scan ballot counting devices for use in conducting post-election audits of electronic ballot counting devices used in state and federal elections.” As noted in the bill’s legislative history, New Hampshire’s lack of post-election audits has been identified in some outside reports as a potential security risk.

Full Article: N.H. Officials Study How Post-Election Audits Would Work Here, As In Dozens of Other States | New Hampshire Public Radio

 

New Hampshire: Gardner seeks 23rd term as secretary of state | Holly Ramer/Associated Press

After what felt like the longest election cycle ever, the nation’s longest serving secretary of state said Thursday he will seek a 23rd two-year term in New Hampshire. First elected by the Legislature in 1976, Bill Gardner faced little competition until two years ago, when he defeated former gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern by just four votes. He kept quiet about his plans for the next biennium until he finished overseeing recounts for the most recent elections. “Three months ago or a year ago or even three weeks ago, I didn’t know if I was going to do it or not,” he said in an interview. Gardner, 72, has built a reputation for fiercely defending New Hampshire’s position at the front of the presidential primary calendar. This year’s Feb. 11 contest was under extra scrutiny after the leadoff Iowa caucuses descended into chaos, with technical problems and results that remained muddied for days. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which created challenges for municipal elections and traditional Town Meetings in March, followed by the September state primary and November general election. The state temporarily expanded eligibility for absentee voting for those concerned about the pandemic, and extensive safety measures were in place at the polls. All of that influenced his decision, Gardner said,

Full Article: Gardner seeks 23rd term as New Hampshire secretary of state

New Hampshire voters can bring guns to polling stations | New Hampshire | Christian Wade/The Center Square

When voters go to the polls in New Hampshire in Tuesday’s presidential election, they’ll be allowed to take firearms with them. New Hampshire is one of a handful of “open carry” states where firearm owners can possess a gun in plain view, without any special permit. The issue of guns in polling stations comes up every election cycle, but has been elevated this year amid heightened concerns about voter intimidation and violence ahead of a rancorous election. President Donald Trump, who is seeking another term, has been accused of stoking those fears with calls for his supporters to act as election “monitors” to check for fraud in the voting process. In a joint letter to local election officials on Thursday, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald clarified that the state doesn’t have the authority to prevent people from carrying firearms into polling stations, even if they are located inside schools. “There are no state election laws governing carrying of a firearm in a polling place,” the officials wrote. “Voters should not be prevented from voting based on possession of a firearm.” While a 1990 federal law prohibits firearms from being brought into schools, the officials noted they cannot prevent licensed carriers from entering school buildings.

Full Article: New Hampshire voters can bring guns to polling stations | New Hampshire | thecentersquare.com

New Hampshire Secretary Of State Says 2020 Is ‘A Once In A Hundred Years Type of An Election’ | Casey McDermott/New Hampshire Public Radio

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has overseen New Hampshire elections for more than four decades and worked on voting policy in the Legislature several years before that — but even he’s never seen anything like 2020. “Here we are, a once in a hundred years type of an election,” Gardner told local election officials during a pre-election huddle Tuesday morning. “But we’ve at least known about it for enough time that we can all have prepared, like you all have.” Gardner’s office has taken extra steps beyond their normal training lineup to prepare pollworkers for what’s to come next week. They’ve hosted near-weekly meetings with local election officials since the summer, which have served as forums for questions and concerns on issues ranging from mail delivery to the use of Sharpie markers on absentee ballots. The state has also equipped local election officials with thousands of masks, jugs of hand sanitizer and single-use pens or pencils, in hopes of limiting transmission of COVID-19 at the polls on Election Day. “It was helpful that we had the primaries back in September, because no one knew for sure how that would all play out,” Gardner said Tuesday morning. “And that was sort of like the spring training, the brief preparation for what’s to come next week.”

Full Article: N.H. Secretary Of State Says 2020 Is ‘A Once In A Hundred Years Type of An Election’ | New Hampshire Public Radio

New Hampshire: Guns Will Be Allowed In Most Polling Places, But ‘Voter Intimidation Will Not Be Tolerated’ | Casey cDerott/New Hampshire Public Radio

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office says state and local authorities can’t prevent people from bringing guns into polling places, even those located in school buildings — but they will be on alert to respond to anyone, armed or otherwise, who is interfering with someone else’s ability to vote. “We are not able to use any of our New Hampshire election laws to prohibit a voter from entering to vote if they have a firearm, and that includes if the polling place is a school,” Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen, who leads the state’s Election Law Unit, during a call with local clerks earlier this week. This policy isn’t new, and state officials similarly said ahead of the 2016 elections that voters could not be barred from entering polling places because they’re carrying a gun. Some voters and pollworkers have voiced anxiety about firearms around polling places on Nov. 3, particularly after President Trump called on supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” New Hampshire is an “open carry” state, meaning gun owners can openly carry a loaded firearm without a license or permit. Since 2017, the state has also allowed any lawful gun owner to carry a concealed weapon. Officials in at least one other state, Michigan, recently announced plans to ban people from openly carrying firearms at polling places on Nov. 3, though the state is now facing a lawsuit over that policy.

New Hampshire: Governor Sununu slams Trump’s suggestion to delay election – News | Fosters

Gov. Chris Sununu declared “the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd,” joining many fellow Republicans pushing back Thursday after President Donald Trump suggested delaying the presidential election. Trump doesn’t have the power to change the election date, but he floated the idea as he pushed unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic will result in fraud. Sununu, who has supported the president since Trump was elected in 2016, was clear in his opposition to him on this issue. “Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story,” he tweeted. “Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100% of the time for 100 years – this year will be no different.” With Trump lagging in the polls and confronted by fresh evidence of an economic collapse and an escalating public health crisis, his comments were widely viewed as an attempt to change the subject and rile his base.

New Hampshire: Memo outlines poll precautions for September primary, November general election | Casey McDermott/NHPR

New Hampshire’s pollworkers will be outfitted with masks, face shields, gloves and gowns for the September primary and November general election — but local officials will need to reuse some of those items, including face masks, in both elections, according to new guidance from the Secretary of State. Gallon-sized jugs of hand sanitizer will also be distributed as part of these Election Day safety supply kits — with a word of caution. “Hand sanitizing before or while handling a ballot risks getting the ballot wet,” the Secretary of State’s office said, instead advising officials to offer sanitizer to voters as they exit the polling place. “Wet ballots can jam in the ballot counting device.” This and other advice was included in a new memo, which was sent to local election officials July 6 and shared with NHPR, outlining the state’s plans for distributing protective gear across the hundreds of municipalities who are ultimately responsible for running the voting process this fall.

New Hampshire: Blind voters sue over New Hampshire absentee ballot system | Holly Ramer/Associated Press

New Hampshire’s absentee ballot system will force blind voters and those with other disabilities to sacrifice their privacy, safety or potentially both during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed against the state. Disabilities Rights Center-New Hampshire sued Secretary of State William Gardner on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind and its New Hampshire chapter, Granite State Independent Living, and three voters with disabilities. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, seeks to force the state to implement an accessible, electronic absentee voting system. Every step of New Hampshire’s absentee voting program is inaccessible,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs are entitled to equal access to New Hampshire’s absentee voting program to vote privately, secretly, independently, and safely, as individuals without disabilities can.” Absentee ballots typically are only available in limited circumstances, but the state is allowing anyone to use them for the Sept. 8 state primary and Nov. 3 general election if they have concerns about the virus. Special voting machines for people with disabilities will be available for those who vote in person, but both scenarios are problematic, according to the lawsuit.

New Hampshire: Lawmakers, Secretary of State seek to iron out COVID-19 absentee ballot process | Ethan DeWitt/Concord Monitor

Weeks after a lengthy commission and exhaustive debate, lawmakers and the Secretary of State’s office say they’ve come up with a process for voting in New Hampshire during the coronavirus. But it’s not going to be effortless. Voters will be allowed and encouraged to vote by absentee ballot to avoid going to the polls – an option usually reserved for specific circumstances. Getting the state’s potential voters familiar and comfortable with the new process, however, will take new levels of outreach. Under the new process, voters looking to avoid polling locations will need to know how to register to vote by mail, apply for an absentee ballot by mail, and turn that ballot in properly. For many, it’ll be their first experience with the process. Town officials and the Secretary of State’s office are prepping for a surge. On Thursday, a key state Senate committee hammered out legislation that could make it easier. An amendment to House Bill 1266 recommended by the Senate Election Law Committee Thursday would allow voters to register to vote and apply for an absentee ballot for both the Sept. 8 state primary and the Nov. 3 presidential election. The bill will receive a full hearing and vote in the Senate on Monday.

New Hampshire: State approves letting anyone register to vote by mail | Kevin Landrigan/New Hampshire Union Leader

Voters may register to vote by mail for New Hampshire elections if concerns over COVID-19 are why they do not wish to sign the paperwork in person, according to a new legal opinion. Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald have said the risk of the novel coronavirus calls for loosening up the requirement in state law that voter registration business has to be done at the city or town clerk’s office. “Registrants who are unable to register to vote in person because of illness from COVID-19 or because they fear registering in person may expose themselves or others to COVID-19 may use absentee registration,” Gardner and MacDonald ruled. Those seeking to register to vote by mail must request by mail, email, fax or phone to be sent these voter registration forms. Once the voter receives the forms, they still must have someone witness signing those documents.

New Hampshire: Officials grapple with how to prepare for mail-in voting in November | Patrick O’Grady/Granite State News Collaborative

What was once reserved for a narrowly defined group in New Hampshire, absentee balloting for the state primary on Sept. 8 and general election on Nov. 3 is now essentially open to every voter in the state as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That could mean a flood of absentee ballots that would have to be processed on Election Day, the only day they can be opened under current state law. “We are probably going to get inundated with absentee ballots,” Laconia City Clerk Cheryl Hebert said, echoing a similar concern expressed by other clerks. State law lays out in detail the absentee balloting process, including voter eligibility. Before that eligibility was expanded on April 10 to allow anyone concerned with the coronavirus to vote absentee, only voters who would be out of town on Election Day, unable to vote at the polls because of employment, had a physical disability or claimed a religious observance could receive the privilege.

New Hampshire: State Election Officials: Any Voter Can Cast Absentee Ballot Due to COVID-19 | Casey McDermottNHPR

Any New Hampshire voter who has concerns about showing up to vote in-person due to COVID-19 will be able to request an absentee ballot in this year’s elections, according to a memo released Friday by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Attorney General.  “Absentee voting is permitted in any circumstance where the voter is under medical advice – whether it is individualized advice or general advice to the public – to avoid being in places like a polling place,” the memo reads. While two-thirds of states allow voters to use absentee ballots without providing an excuse, New Hampshire voting laws limit absentee ballot usage to those who meet certain state-approved criteria. The move to expand absentee voting comes as election administrators across the country are scrambling to adjust plans to keep voters — and pollworkers — safe. When applying for an absentee ballot, a New Hampshire voter must indicate whether one of the following circumstances apply: they plan to be out of town on Election Day; or they can’t appear at the polls due to a religious observance, due to work or caregiving obligations, or due to illness or disability.

New Hampshire: Ballot machines clog due to increased use of hand sanitizer | Erin Nolan/Eagle Tribune

Locals’ coronavirus concerns appear to have prompted some difficulties during Tuesday’s municipal elections in New Hampshire, according to Atkinson Town Clerk Julianna Hale. Hale said that both of Atkinson’s ballot scanners were temporarily clogged by ballots that were wet with disinfectant or hand sanitizer. “It is definitely the year of coronavirus,” she said, referencing the highly contagious, flu-like illness commonly called COVID-19 that has prompted multiple states, including Massachusetts, to declare a state of emergency. She said that some voters brought their own alcohol-based disinfectant to clean both their hands and the voting booths. When ballots came into contact with the disinfectant, she said, they began to break down and clog the machine. “The disinfectant is weakening the paper structure,” Hale said. “That’s what I’m seeing, anyway. I am not an expert, but that is what I am seeing.” The issue was only able to be remedied by calling LHS Associates, the company that distributes the machines.

New Hampshire: Why did the primary go smoothly with record turnout? Low tech is good tech | Geoff Forester and David Brooks/Concord Monitor

A nationally known computer hacker, a term he wears proudly, helped keep an eye on New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday but says you didn’t need computer smarts to see that it went well. “One big thing is no lines. When you go around the United States, usually the first thing you see if there are problems are long lines of people who can’t get to vote,” said Harri Hursti, a cybersecurity analyst who founded DefCon, the nation’s best-known gathering of people interested in computer security. Hursti has worked with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office since about 2005, when he met Secretary of State Bill Gardner at a conference. His presence here for Tuesday’s primary was of particular importance because of the meltdown of the Iowa caucuses caused largely by the use of an untested app. During a discussion Wednesday morning as election officials completed counting votes from around the state he was almost effusive about how things went.

New Hampshire: Windsor’s Oak Voting Machine Still Works After Only 130 Years (Eat Your Heart Out Iowa) | Paula Tracy/InDepthNH

There “ain’t no app” to mess up voting in this town of 122 registered voters. Just an oak ballot box that since 1892 has been collecting the paper ballots on election day with a hand crank. Yup, it’s still used today. Then the ballots are counted by hand. On the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire Primary, Secretary of State William Gardner stopped by in the tiny town of Windsor to see the box, with its hand-cut dovetail corners. It dings happily as Pat Hines, election moderator, feeds each ballot into the antique box, still with its original hardware intact. By noon, 18 of the town’s 122 registered voters had come by and added two new ones in same-day voting. Perhaps some of the success for the primary and its 100 years has to do with flinty, thrifty Yankee towns like Windsor who decided the wood box and paper did not need to be updated and have stuck with the tried and true.

New Hampshire: How New Hampshire votes: Pencils and paper | Ben Popken/NBC News

New Hampshire’s election system is decidedly old school: paper ballots hand-marked by voters. That’s mostly a good thing, election technology experts told NBC News. After Iowa’s caucuses were thrown off in part due to a faulty smartphone app, election technology is now the focus of national scrutiny. But like any election system, New Hampshire’s isn’t bulletproof. Aging equipment and a few tweaks to its system for 2020 still present opportunities for confusion or disruption for Tuesday’s vote. When asked about his state’s election security during a meeting of the state’s Ballot Law Commission before the 2018 midterms, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner held up a pencil. “Want me to give it to you and see if you can hack this pencil?” Gardner said. “We have this pencil. This is how people vote in this state. And you can’t hack this pencil.” The biggest immediate difference between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary is in the format itself. Iowa uses a caucus system in which people physically and publicly line up and go through rounds of “realignment” depending on which candidates receive enough support. New Hampshire, like most other states, uses a primary, in which voters largely cast secret paper ballots, as in the general election.

New Hampshire: Primary might be the most technophobic election in the country. | Aaron Mak/Slate

There will be no app malfunctions during the New Hampshire primary for one simple reason: There will be no apps. In the troubled aftermath of the Iowa caucuses, officials in charge of the state’s elections on Tuesday are touting their stubbornly analog approach to voting. Rather than overhauling polling places with mobile apps and voting machines, the Granite State has long opted to stick with democracy’s old faithfuls: pencils and paper ballots. According to officials, not only does the state’s electoral Luddism result in fewer glitches, but it also acts as an old-school cybersecurity measure. “You can’t hack a pencil” has become something of a catchphrase for New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in the run-up to the primary. Most polling places in New Hampshire use printed voting registration lists, instead of tablets and laptops, to check people in (poll workers in North Carolina, in contrast, recently had trouble with getting poll books to function on laptops). People then receive a paper ballot, though voters with disabilities can use voting machines, as is required by federal law. The machines, however, ultimately mark a physical ballot. The ballots then go through optical scanners that have all their external ports except for the one for power disabled, and which are programmed by computers disconnected from the internet.

New Hampshire: Ballot-counting machines are two decades old, with no replacement in sight | David Brooks/Concord Monitor

Experienced New Hampshire voters will see something quite familiar when they cast their primary ballots Tuesday: A vote-counting machine that hasn’t changed in more than two decades. The AccuVote optical reader has been part of Granite State elections since the early 1990s, when it was first accepted by the Secretary of State’s office. It’s a 14-pound box that looks like an oversized laptop computer sitting on top of a collection bin. As each voter leaves the polling place, poll workers slip their ballot into the AccuVote slot and the machine bounces light off the paper. Sensors tally filled-in circles next to candidates’ names and then the ballot falls into the bin below the reader. After polls close, the reader prints out the results, with all the paper ballots available for a recount. Other technologies have come and gone over the years but AccuVote has remained, and today is still the state’s only legal ballot-counting technology. On primary day it will be used in 118 towns and 73 city wards, leaving the other 100 or so towns in the state, including several in the Concord area, to count ballots on election night by hand.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire is not Iowa, but some voting concerns remain | Ethan DeWitt/Concord Monitor

It’s not clear exactly where the trouble started in Iowa. Perhaps it was user error that caused many of the precincts to report irregular vote totals in last Monday’s caucus, prompting Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to call for a partial re-canvass. Perhaps it can all be attributed to technical failures with a mobile reporting app. It could have been partly related to unfamiliarity with new caucus rules that added increased reporting requirements. Whatever the cause, the effect of the days-long delay in results was clear. Candidates were left frustrated, party officials ashamed and voters confused. This week, New Hampshire’s governor and secretary of state called a throng of reporters to the State House and took to a podium, anxious to promote a counter-message: No worries here. “Given the news and uncertainty out of Iowa, it’s important that we assure the public that the systems we have in place here in New Hampshire are truly beyond reproach,” said Sununu.