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After Tight Race, A Recount In N.H.'s Senate Race Looms

Kate Harper for NHPR
Voters in Londonerry cast ballots

After a long, well-financed, neck-and-neck campaign, the race for United States Senate in New Hampshire could be headed for a recount.

Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan finished Election Day separated by 1,023 votes out of more than 738,420 cast, with Hassan holding the slight lead.

Despite the razor thin margin, the two-term governor rallied her supporters outside the State House Wednesday morning.

“It is clear that we have won, and I am proud to stand here as the next United States senator from New Hampshire,” Hassan said. “It will be my job in the U.S. Senate to make the best decisions for New Hampshire to work with President-elect Trump when it is in the best interest of New Hampshire and the country, and to stand up to him when it isn’t.”

But by midday Wednesday, Ayotte seemed unready to concede. In a statement Wednesday morning, Ayotte spokesperson Liz Johnson said, “This has been a closely contested race from the beginning, and we look forward to results being announced by the Secretary of State, and ensuring that every vote is counted in this race that has received an historic level of interest.”

How a recount would work

Under New Hampshire election law, either candidate may apply for a recount if the margin is within 20 percentage points of total votes cast in that race. The candidate, who must make the request in writing, has until Monday at 5 pm to submit the paperwork and pay the appropriate fees.



From there, state police will collect all 737,728 ballots from around the state, and deliver them to Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s offices. Gardner will then appoint personnel to review each ballot, by hand, in a public venue.

State law says that surrogates for the candidates may challenge the results of a contested ballot, with the Secretary of State making the final ruling.

The last time a New Hampshire Senate race resulted in a recount was in 1974, when Republican Louis Wyman and Democrat John Durkin competed in the closest race in the history of the U.S. Senate. On Election Day, Wyman won by 355 votes. After a recount, his opponent was declared the winner by ten votes.

A second recount resulted in Wyman ahead by just two votes, but at the request of Durkin, the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration stepped in to resolve the matter. However, a deadlock in the committee eventually resulted in an entirely new election.

Durkin went on to prevail in that race by 27,000 votes.


Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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