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Lawmakers call for transparency after revelation of uncounted 2020 ballots in Bedford

Voting
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There is bipartisan agreement among lawmakers in Bedford on at least one issue: The town needs to get to the bottom of the failure of election officials to count nearly 200 absentee ballots cast during the November 2020 election.

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The ballots were apparently left in a box on Election Day and were never tallied in time to be recorded for the election.

Earlier this week, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office said state election officials quickly concluded last year that the miscue did not change the outcome of any 2020 race. But lawmakers representing Bedford want a deeper look at the matter.

‘This issue must be fully investigated in a transparent manner as soon as possible,” the town’s five Republican House members said in a statement this week. “We want to know what happened and why this information was concealed for so long.”

The town’s two Democratic House members are similarly calling for “a thorough and transparent explanation of the timeline of events, decisions made throughout this process,” as well as details on communications between the attorney general, the Secretary of State, and local election officials.

The Attorney General’s office and town officials have made competing claims about how the matter was handled.

Bedford’s Town Clerk Sally Kellar and Moderator William Klein both say prosecutors told them to not tell the public about the matter.

“We were told not to discuss this with anyone, not even the Town Council, because it was a pending investigation,” Kellar and Klein wrote to voters last week.

But the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office flatly denies that claim.

“At no time did the Attorney General’s Office direct Bedford Election officials not to explain the situation with the 190 absentee ballots to the Town Council or to any other person,” Anne Edwards, general counsel to the New Hampshire Department of Justice, wrote to Bedford officials Monday.

Edwards added that town officials “asked not to notify voters.”

“We are not going to comment on the Attorney General’s office directly,” Bedford Moderator William Klein said when reached for comment Wednesday. “But we have done everything correctly,” he said.

Gov. Chris Sununu, meanwhile, praised how state officials have handled the matter, and chalked up the underlying issue to human error.

“My understanding is there was nothing nefarious; it was simply recorded wrong at the town level, placed in the wrong pile, whatever it was, at the town level,” Sununu said. “This has nothing to do with voter fraud or anything like that.”