Every two years, one of my favorite rituals of New Hampshire’s peculiar form of democracy is the recount. With 500 races on the ballot statewide, most of them in relatively small districts, there are dozens of races that come down to a very small number of votes. And every election, a few seats change hands once we get a closer look at the ballots. In fact, recounts in two state representative districts have already resulted in new winners.
I volunteered to observe the District 9 state Senate recount between Republican Andy Sanborn and Democrat Lee Nyquist. Watching a recount reminds me that voters aren’t partisan machines. I wonder what motivated someone to vote for Gary Johnson for president, Maggie Hassan for governor and Bill O’Brien for state representative. Or another to skip every race between president and state representative.
Sanborn won on Election Night by about 250 votes, and after the recount by a little more 200. Even that narrow margin is unlikely to change during a recount, but it is certainly close enough to ask for one.
New Hampshire has been saved the ignominy of a Florida 2000 recount debacle because of our choice decades ago to adopt optical-scan ballots. These machines avoid the mechanical fallibility of punch cards and the digital uncertainty of electronic voting machine by using the cutting-edge technology I remember from taking standardized tests in the 1980s.
At every polling place in New Hampshire, ballots are either counted by hand or by a machine that tracks the darkened ovals you fill in on your ballot. Either way, your paper ballot can be reviewed by human eyes during any recount.