Nov. 17 – CONCORD — A draft report by the state’s Select Committee on Voter Confidence says New Hampshire’s elections are accurate, there is no evidence of widespread fraud and ballot counters are reliable.
In the document, the committee recommends increased training for election officials, increased post-election scrutiny, and consideration of an independent re-election commission.
Richard Swett, the committee’s co-chair, said on Wednesday the panel had reached general consensus on the content of the draft report and was reviewing it, but was in a detailed finalization process.
NH Secretary of State David Scanlan formed the committee on April 26 as a bipartisan effort to address concerns about the fall in voter confidence.
On Wednesday, the group spent more than four hours going through the document word for word. The meeting ended with a lengthy discussion centered on where summaries of those who testified before the committee should appear in the report.
“Today’s difficulties had more to do with the length of the hemline than the fit of the dress,” said Swett, who was formerly a Democratic U.S. Representative and U.S. Ambassador to Denmark and is currently a board member for world affairs at the New Hampshire Council.
One finding of the report is that confidence in the elections is lower than in the past but still high.
“As a result of deliberate misinformation about the security and accuracy of our electoral process, there has been a erosion of confidence in elections here and recently,” it said.
Criticism of elections has been repeated and amplified on social media, contributing to some loss of confidence in the electoral system, according to the report.
Scores of so-called electoral deniers were defeated in November 8 elections across the country.
“I think most people feel that this past election was a rejection of the chaos, the misinformation, and all the things that you would say out of the mouth of an election denier,” Swett said.
According to the report, better training for election officials could lead to increased public confidence in the electoral system.
“For the most part, local officials are doing a good job, but their training is voluntary and variable,” the report said. “Testimonies have shown that there is extensive training available to those who manage NH elections. Some mechanisms should be implemented to enhance and encourage standardized training.”
It also says that New Hampshire’s partisan election process, or drawing of lots for political gain by the party in control of the legislature, is eroding voter confidence.
“Establishing an independent, bipartisan constituency re-election commission should be considered so that all voters can have confidence that there is no constituency manipulation or unfair bias towards one party or the other,” the report said.
The committee testified at nine public hearings across New Hampshire from May 2 to September 6, including one on September 6 at the Keene Public Library.
The panel invited witnesses and took comments from the public, ranging from criticism of voting machines to claims that the committee’s creation amounted to amplifying unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and conspiracy theories.
However, many people expressed confidence in the voting system and in the accuracy of the voting machines.
Former Secretary of State William Gardner testified that New Hampshire is one of the easiest places to vote, and polls show voters agree with this observation.
Traditionally, voter turnout in New Hampshire has been among the highest of any state, according to the NH Secretary of State’s website.
Bradford Cook co-chairs the Voter Confidence Committee with Swett. Cook is chairman of the NH Ballot Law Commission and past president of the law firm of Sheehan Phinney.
Also on the panel are Andrew Georgevits, Chairman of the Concord Republican City Committee; Amanda Merrill, a former state legislator who is a board member of the NH Land & Community Heritage Investment Program; Jim Splaine, a former New Hampshire legislator; Douglass Teschner, President of Growing Leadership in Pike, NH; Olivia Zink, executive director of Open Democracy in Concord; and Ken Eyring, co-founder of the Government Integrity Project.
The completed report is the culmination of the Committee’s work.
Rick Green can be reached at [email protected] or 603-355-8567.