New Hampshire is in the minority of states that don’t routinely audit their election results. But on Monday, the Secretary of State’s office tested out how such an audit might work in future races.
Teams from two election technology companies — Clear Ballot and Nordic Innovation Labs — ran a test audit on the results of five local races from 2018, in a public session at the State Archives. (A recording of the session can be viewed online here.)
A new law requires the Secretary of State's office "to study the use of high speed, optical/digital scan ballot counting devices for use in conducting post-election audits of electronic ballot counting devices used in state and federal elections."
As noted in the bill’s legislative history, New Hampshire’s lack of post-election audits has been identified in some outside reports as a potential security risk.
The measure was sponsored by Republicans but passed earlier this year with bipartisan support, and is one in a long line of efforts to bring a post-election audit system to New Hampshire. This bill, unlike some other audit proposals, also had the support of the Secretary of State’s office.
The new law set a deadline of Nov. 1, 2020 for completing that study, but the Secretary of State's office is now moving forward with the effort after a busy COVID-era election season.
Deputy Secretary of State Bud Fitch, who facilitated Monday’s demonstration, said New Hampshire’s existing election laws leave a narrow window for conducting audits between when ballots are first tallied and when the recount deadline closes.
“That means: collect ballots on Wednesday, do what we’re trying out today on Thursday, and publicly announce the results of it so that on Friday, the last day a candidate has to say, 'Yes, I want to my race recounted,' they can make that decision in light of the results of this audit,” Fitch said.
Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said the two vendors present Monday were the only ones who responded to a request for proposals on the matter, so they don’t plan to hold any additional tests with other vendors. Scanlan said the office plans to issue its report to the Legislature with recommendations on how to proceed with election audits sometime in December.