NH Senate recount calls mail-in vote into question

CONCORD — When workers publicly tallied the votes Tuesday in the Nov. 8 election for District 24 of the New Hampshire state Senate, they each showed a ballot, and observers kept responding with a single word: “challenge.”

The observers didn’t challenge every single ballot, but they seemed to raise a challenge every time they spotted a mail-in ballot.

Challenges are a normal part of the counting process. They are used to report concerns that the Secretary of State needs to review and decide how the vote should be recorded. Candidates who are not satisfied with the secretary’s decision can then contact the Electoral Law Commission to request another level of review.

But the large number of challenges raised on Tuesday added an unusual layer to an already unusual recount process.

Republican nominee Lou Gargiulo of Hampton Falls requested the recount, although early poll results showed he lost by 3,683 votes, or 11.4 percentage points, to Democratic nominee Debra Altschiller of Stratham in the district, which represents seven Seacoast cities.

New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan said he couldn’t recall what was the widest range of any recount his office had conducted in recent decades, but he confirmed this race was among the widest. Regardless, he said he’s laser-focused on the task at hand.