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NH Secretary of State: "Citizen Election Observers Threaten Election Integrity"

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Copies bud. Email address removed , Mavrogeorge, Matthew

Subject: Requests to have moderators hand count ballots

Dear Town Clerk:

Within the last few days, we have been fielding inquiries from local election officials about citizens and interest groups requesting the moderator conduct a hand count of ballots after they have been counted by an electronic ballot counting device. Our thoughts on this matter follows. Please share with other election officials in your town.

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There is no provision in state law that provides a mechanism requiring moderators to conduct a hand count of any contest on ballots that have already been counted by an electronic ballot counting device. If a moderator suspects a problem with the security or functioning of an electronic ballot counting device, the moderator is authorized to take the device out of service (RSA 656:42). Similarly, the moderator at his or her discretion may count any race on the ballot by hand if, for a specific reason, they feel a need to verify the result of the electronic ballot counting device.

Pressure from special interest groups for a moderator to conduct an election in a certain way is inappropriate. The decision of whether or not to use an electronic ballot counting device is made at town meeting by a majority vote of the voters present, and that is the appropriate forum to have that discussion. The moderator is in many ways an election judge, an impartial arbiter at the polling place, who is elected on the basis of being able to run an election fairly and impartially. Moderators should not be placed in the potential position of being a lightning rod for the agenda of a special interest group.

In the specific instance where special interest groups are maneuvering to pressure moderators into conducting hand counts, caution should be used. Some of the pressure comes with offers from the special interest groups to count the ballots themselves. Letting members of these groups count ballots could result in serious chain of custody issues, and loss of the integrity of the election itself.

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Sincerely,

David Scanlan

Deputy Secretary of State

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