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New Hampshire Senate Weighs Making Voting Machine Audits Permanent

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by Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin
January 31, 2023

During the 2022 elections, the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office audited voting machines in six different polling places, checking for accuracy and consistency as part of a one-time requirement by the Legislature. 

Now, Senate lawmakers are hoping to make the auditing permanent. 

Senate Bill 157 would require the office to audit at least two AccuVote machines on Election Day during state primaries and up to eight machines during the general election.

The audits would need to be conducted at specific towns and city wards across the state, selected at random, the bill states. They would be carried out in public by people appointed and trained by the secretary of state.

For each machine, at least 5 percent of the ballots scanned must be examined, the bill adds. The choices on the ballots must be compared to the results recorded in the machines, and any differences must be documented.

Sen. James Gray, a Rochester Republican and the bill’s prime sponsor, said the bill was an important extension of the mandatory audits last year. 

Lawmakers passed a bill in 2022, Senate Bill 366, that required audits of two towns or city wards in the September state primary and four in the general election. New Hampshire was one of the last states in the country to adopt election audits, according to Senior Deputy Secretary of State Patricia Lovejoy. 

None of the six audits uncovered discrepancies, the Secretary of State’s Office reported last year.

The issue has garnered bipartisan support; 82 percent of Granite Staters polled by the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights said they support post-election auditing in some form, testified McKenzie St. Germain, the group’s campaign director. 

But some voting rights groups, such as the Brennan Center for Justice, say the bill should be expanded. 

Lisa Danetz, a representative of the center, argued the bill should require that all ballots at the chosen polling place be audited – including hand-counted ballots – and not just the AccuVote-counted ballots.

She also argued that the audits should be carried out across a broader swath of cities and towns and that the sample “be a representative cross section of the different types of state jurisdictions, large and small, machine count and hand count, in different areas of the state.”

The issue, Danetz argued, “has never been more important.” 

“Routine, well-designed post-election audits can provide New Hampshire voters with assurance that their ballots have been counted correctly,” she said. 

This story was written by Ethan DeWitt, a reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.

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