PEMBROKE, New Hampshire — As volunteers and auditors pack up voting machines and ballot boxes from the Windham 2020 election audit, one auditor says there is “still a lot of work to do.”
The audit, which has gained national attention and praise from former President Donald Trump, inspected whether ballot-counting machines and memory cards used during the 2020 general election in Windham worked properly, as well as confirming the hand tabulation of roughly 10,000 ballots for the state House, governor, and U.S. senator races with the number of ballots cast.
Over the past two weeks, Harri Hursti, Mark Lindeman, and Philip Stark led the charge as the three-person team of forensic auditors. In accordance with the legislation authorizing the audit, one auditor was selected by the town of Windham, another jointly selected by the New Hampshire secretary of state and attorney general, and the third by the first two auditors. A group of volunteers comprised of moderators, supervisors, and town clerks assisted the audit team daily.
While handling of the ballots finished on Monday, Hursti said Wednesday that the audit team’s work is “still ongoing.”
“Now, we have captured the data,” he told observers. “Now, we have to go back to do the analysis, and there might be something in the data, which we now have, which we haven’t yet understood.”
On Monday, the audit team revealed as many as 60% of ballots with machine-made or handmade folds were improperly counted by scanning machines rendered by the town of Windham. The ballot papers were made correctly, so a large issue lied with the machines “forcefully” folding the paper in the wrong position, Hursti explained to the Washington Examiner.
The issue of improper folds does not appear to be across the board in other races or other towns, but Hursti isn’t ruling it out.
“It’s not across the board, so let me be very clear,” the auditor said. “There is no reason to believe that the folding couldn’t have affected other races if the folding had been in the wrong place.”
The results of the audit cannot alter the official results of the Rockingham County District 7 House of Representatives race, according to SB 43, and must uphold the recount.
After the results of the 2020 state House race for the town were particularly close, the hand recount was requested. That resulted in four winning Republican candidates in Rockingham District 7 gaining around 300 votes and the top-finishing Democratic candidate losing around 100.
On April 12, Gov. Chris Sununu signed SB 43 ordering the audit.
During a question-and-answer session with observers on Wednesday, Hursti explained vote gains in hand counts are not unusual.
“We already knew that in New Hampshire, every single time that when you do a hand count, it is a tendency for all or most of the candidates to gain votes in hand counts,” he said, citing people being able to count votes that machines cannot due to human error, such as overfilling an oval on a ballot.
On Thursday, Hursti told observers the improper folding of ballots could account for the gain and loss of votes from the hand count.
The official report of the audit’s results will not be released for several weeks, but auditors say the initial findings have not pointed to widespread fraud and won’t change the winners or losers of the races.
“The original count, the recount, nothing has ever been changing who gets elected,” Hursti told CNN. “This is an exercise of finding what caused the error, but the four winners have all, from day one, remained to be the same four winners. This has never threatened that. And, again, if there would have been a widespread fraud, which would have been uncovered [in] this, it would have come out. There was none.”
The final report from the Forensic Election Audit team is due 45 days from the completion of the forensic audit on Thursday. The New Hampshire secretary of state, attorney general, and the Ballot Law Commission are expected to issue additional reports within 45 days of receiving the audit team’s.
Windham’s audit took place at the Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke. It was livestreamed every day, open to the press, and hosted several observers in person, many of whom filmed the audit themselves.
Despite the efforts of transparency, some still have doubts about the process.
New Hampshire resident Albert Peel told the Washington Examiner that he observed the audit the “whole time” and found it “extremely disturbing.”
“I actually grew up with an American dream,” he said. “Everything was honest and straightforward and above board. And what I’m seeing is not honest, straightforward, and above board. And the amount of requirement to get to the point whereby this was something that we could actually get done, shouldn’t have happened.”
Some have questioned whether this audit’s findings will point to errors in other New Hampshire towns’ elections. Hursti confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the team did request data on other towns but were unable to get it.
“There is no evidence at this point in time,” he said of other towns seeing similar errors, calling Windham’s audit “isolated.”
“At the same time, if the lawmakers wanted me to look up everything, they would have written that in the law. They didn’t. So, I’m fulfilling the law,” he added.
Regardless of Hursti’s confidence, Peel “absolutely” believes discrepancies are happening on a wider scale.
“I think that our forefathers did an awful lot to build a democracy, and without a voting system that is reliable and open and transparent, we don’t have anything,” he said.
The audit has been celebrated by Trump, along with the audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County, as being part of what he deemed the “incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive Election Fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 Presidential Election.”
However, Sununu disputed that characterization.
“A discrepancy of 300 votes out of over 800,000 cast does not constitute ‘massive election fraud,'” the GOP governor said.
“In fact, it is proof that New Hampshire’s voting process is the most reliable, safe, and secure in the country and that we will ensure every last vote is accurately accounted for,” he added.
In the months since the November election, Trump and his allies have claimed it was rigged and stolen from him, despite state and federal officials, including members of his own administration, insisting the 2020 election was secure.
President Joe Biden beat out Trump’s efforts for a second term. The former president lost the Granite State by nearly 60,000 votes. If that race was somehow overturned, the state’s four Electoral College votes would not have been enough to change the results of the election, but Trump and his allies have set their focus on a small constellation of states, including Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia, they claim were beset by fraud.
Some of Trump’s supporters have pushed for an audit of the presidential election in New Hampshire, as it wasn’t included in Windham’s. Hursti made clear on Wednesday that the auditors would stay within the confines of SB 43.
“A lot of the activists, if you may, have been trying to convince me that I should step out of the law and go do something, which would be interesting. First of all, this is very expensive, so the law is very clear [on] what is the scope and intention of this,” he said.
As New Hampshirites await a report, Peel said he hopes the audit will help foster “trust when we go to that voting bin or the voting place, that when we put a ballot in, or when we fill out a ballot, or somehow when we place our vote, that our vote actually counts.”
Original Location: ‘Still a lot of work to do’ as Windham 2020 election audit concludes