After Curtis Hines marked his paper ballot for Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, he brought it to the ballot box where his father, Patrick, cranked the handle to feed it in. “Ding!” The vote was counted. This was state-of-the-art technology – in 1892. But there’s no need for anything newer in this town of 198 people, the second smallest in New Hampshire. Its 127 registered voters are casting ballots in the same 12-by-16-inch wooden box that voters used in the Granite State’s first presidential primary 100 years ago. The controversy over so-called butterfly ballots in Florida during the disputed 2000 presidential election led to a major overhaul in voting equipment in many states, prompted by an infusion of federal dollars as part of the Help Americans Vote Act, or HAVA. Many of the new voting systems featured technology that officials thought would help restore confidence in elections at a critical point. New Hampshire, though, saw little need for wholesale change.
In 80 towns, the only equipment needed to vote is a pencil and paper — voters simply check a box, and officials tally results by hand. Forty of those towns use ballot boxes like Windsor’s, which were purchased by the state in 1892 for all towns at a cost of $593. It cost more than that to print the ballots and ship the boxes across the state.
The rest of the state uses optical scan machines to tally the paper ballots, machines in use since 1992 that have needed little maintenance and are easy to replace if needed. And if there are questions? Well, this won’t be Iowa, and there aren’t going to be coin flips.
“Open the box, put them all on the table, and go through them,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said.