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N.H. House recount battle moves to court; Legislature's partisan balance still unclear

The fight over a recount of a House race that gave Manchester Democrat Maxine Mosley a one-vote win last week is now before a Merrimack County Superior Court judge.

At issue is Secretary of State David Scanlan’s authority to “continue” a seemingly completed recount to tally two dozen ballots that election officials say an audit showed were cast on Election Day but not included in the recount that overturned the 23-vote win of Mosley’s opponent, Republican incumbent Larry Gagne.

“We don’t want to disenfranchise any legal voters, and we don’t want a clerical error to strike anyone’s vote from this election,” said Myles Matteson, an attorney with the New Hampshire Department of Justice, who is representing Scanlan in the court case.

Mosley wants to block further ballot counting.

Her suit, filed by state Democratic Party attorney Bill Christie and with state Sen. Donna Soucy as co-plaintiff, argues that state law allows for one recount for a given race — unless an audit reveals more than a 1% discrepancy between the recount tally and the number of ballots counted in a subsequent audit.

The suit says Scanlan’s move to count more ballots to square the audit and recount results is “an abuse of discretion, without precedent, and in clear violation of New Hampshire law.”

“There is no evidence all votes weren’t counted,” Christie told reporters outside the courtroom Monday afternoon.

This fight comes as control of the 400-member New Hampshire House remains in limbo: With a handful of recounts yet to be done, the House is now split with 200 Republicans and 199 Democrats. One race, for a seat out of Rochester, is tied.

The outcome in that race could hinge on how the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission rules on a handful of disputed ballots.

It may also be decided by the House itself, either by majority vote, or by a vote to send the matter back to local voters, which is what the lawmakers did in 1992, the last instance of a tied House election.

Clarity on the Manchester race could come sooner.

With a Wednesday deadline for Scanlan to certify election results, Judge Amy Ignatius had hoped to rule on the Manchester recount Monday But at the end of the hearing, she indicated that there were “a couple of key cases” to look at.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Ignatius said.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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