Several “inadvertent data entry mistakes” by the Secretary of State's office are to blame for the 146 incorrect absentee ballots that were sent to voters in five New Hampshire towns, according to a review by the Attorney General’s office.
The absentee ballots containing the mistakes were distributed to voters in late September and early October in preparation for the November general election, but the state says all errors have been corrected and all affected voters have been sent updated ballots with the correct information.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Election Law Unit several weeks ago after discovering errors involving local Democratic candidates on absentee ballots in five towns: Bedford, Londonderry, Auburn, Sandown and Chester.
Upon further review, the Attorney General’s office confirmed errors on at least some of the ballots that were initially distributed in all five towns. At first, they identified 126 people who received ballots containing mistakes, but they ultimately revised that count upward to include another 20 people — bringing the total to 146.
“We have determined that the errors resulted from three separate and inadvertent data entry mistakes made by the Department of State,” Assistant Attorney General Matt Broadhead, who leads the state’s Election Law Unit, wrote in a reply to the New Hampshire Democratic Party last week.
According to the Attorney General’s office, two Democratic candidates were misidentified as Libertarians on ballots sent to uniformed and overseas (UOCAVA) voters in Bedford and Londonderry.
Additionally, the name of another Democratic candidate for state representative who lost the primary was incorrectly included on both UOCAVA and generic absentee ballots that were distributed in Auburn, Sandown and Chester.
In his letter summarizing the situation, Broadhead noted that the Secretary of State’s office was working on a tight deadline to prepare ballots for the general election after the state primary on Sept. 11:
"Under federal law, UOCAVA voters who have requested an absentee ballot must be sent their ballot no later [than] September 22, 2018, which permits the Department of State only 11 days (8 business days) to prepare and send these ballots to over 300 jurisdictions, each with unique offices and candidates appearing on the ballots in the proper name order and column rotations. The confluence of these events places an extraordinary time burden, initially on the Department’s staff to create each unique ballot, but also on the town and city clerks who are required to send them out."
Broadhead wrote that the Secretary of State’s office discovered and fixed the errors in Bedford and Londonderry “well before” the New Hampshire Democratic Party filed its complaint. Likewise, he said the Secretary of State’s office had already delivered some of the corrected ballots to the remaining towns by the time the party’s complaint was filed, and the remaining ballots were distributed two days later.
“Errors of this nature do occur from time to time due to the high volume of offices, candidates and ballots that need to be reviewed and prepared within a tight timeframe,” Broadhead wrote. “In this case, the mistakes were quickly identified and corrected and each voter has been provided a corrected ballot.”
Broadhead also said state officials have been working with town clerks in all of the affected communities to ensure each vote is counted appropriately.