Voter confidence panel divided over how to handle unfounded claims about N.H.'s elections
A final report from New Hampshire’s Special Committee on Voter Confidence is stalled over a debate over how to frame the public testimony gathered over months of hearings — which included some unfounded claims about voting.
The committee’s latest meeting on Wednesday was supposed to be a final review of its report, and committee members said they had hoped to complete their work by now. But after hours of debate, the panel was still unable to reach an agreement over where to place a section summarizing public concerns on election integrity: either in an appendix or in the main text of the document.
Secretary of State Dave Scanlan created the committee earlier this year in an effort to gather public feedback on the state’s election system and identify solutions for building trust in the voting process, at a time of heightened scrutiny over those issues at the state and national level.
The debate over the structure of the committee’s final report illustrates the delicate tightrope its members are walking in that work, as they try to acknowledge some Granite Staters’ concerns about the electoral system without legitimizing false claims that jeopardize the trust they’re trying to strengthen.
As it stands, the committee’s draft report contains a sizable section distilling testimony from individuals who attended the public sessions it held since its launch in May. As it tried to identify the root causes of Granite Staters’ concerns over voting and present recommendations to address such issues, the panel relied on those public hearings to inform their recommendations.
At Wednesday’s hearing, committee member and former state lawmaker James Splaine said the smooth administration of this year’s midterm elections shows that some of the concerns voiced by the public were unfounded. Including those perspectives in the official text of the committee’s report, he argued, would only perpetuate the kind of misinformation they’re trying to fight against. Instead, he suggested those claims could be included in an appendix to the report.
“I think we have to be extra, extra careful not to legitimize certain kinds of positions that some people have made in the testimony that we really don’t want any part of,” he said.
But Ken Eyring, another committee member who has in the past spread unfounded claims about vote-counting machines, advocated for featuring the public’s feedback more prominently in the final report.
“If people have come and testified before this committee, and they have expressed a concern, whether that concern be real or not, it is perceived by them to be real,” Eyring said. “That then leads to a lack of voter confidence and it should be addressed – whether it’s real or not.”
Eyring said filtering out some perspectives from the report would remove important context that could help the Secretary of State’s office and lawmakers to take informed steps to boost voter confidence among Granite Staters.
“I believe the Secretary needs to be aware of all of the different concerns that were presented so that he can then be better equipped to address those concerns,” he said. “If we’re going to not represent specific statements that people made, I would like to have an understanding as to why we’re going to filter out particular statements.”
The committee will reconvene on Dec. 1 to address final changes and reach a decision over the section on public testimony.