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Can NH recount chain of custody be rescued?

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Black Box Voting : Latest Investigations from Black Box Voting: 1-15-08: Can recount chain of custody be rescued?

Posted by Bev Harris on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - 9:15 pm:

At this point we can pretty much guarantee the New Hampshire recount for Kucinich will match.

Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich did not order a statewide recount today, only two counties, and the Republican candidate, Albert Howard,was cut out of the recount altogether. I'll write more on the details later this week.

I have been doing field work since Saturday here in New Hampshire. Donations have been helping underwrite the costs of a citizen dream team: I invited four outstanding people to join me here to evaluate chain of custody for the recount: Susan Pynchon (Florida Fair Elections Coalition, has helped unravel the Sarasota situation); Melisa Urda (Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, has helped get the Illinois attorney general to issue a special directive ordering DuPage County to follow the law); and Paddy Shaffer (Ohio Election Justice Campaign, with Richard Hayes Phillips helped unravel the ballot chain of custody in Ohio). Others, like Election Defense Alliance Sally Castleman, have been organizing a team of citizen videographers, while Bruce O'Dell and Theron Horton have been quietly crunching the numbers to pinpoint locations with unusual footprints. (I also hoped to have the great Kathleen Wynne, but had to red-eye out to New Hampshire on such short notice that the timing didn't work this time.)

VERDICT: New Hampshire is unable to document its chain of custody properly, lacks written procedures, its secretary of state has said he doesn't know where its memory cards are, and LHS has been encroaching on state elections with near-total control. I'll be preparing a Special Report when I return from New Hampshire with documents and video to support this assessment.


In New Hampshire, ballots are brought from each town and ward to a central location for recounts. We got a tip today that the location would be the state archive building, so we went there hoping for a walk-through.

There, police told us that videotaping the delivery of the ballots and the unloading of the ballots, would be prohibited and cameras would be confiscated if people were caught doing this. The rationale, we were told, was that they had placed the ballot delivery area in a state building with a parking lot that belonged to a mental hospital located on the grounds about a block away. On the theory that cameras might catch a mental patient wandering around and invade his privacy, all videotaping would be prohibited.

Now, there was 14 inches of snow yesterday and the drifts and mounds are up to 10 feet high, so the idea that a mental patient could even walk through this to the state archives to get their privacy invaded by a camera filming ballot unloading seemed preposterous. Paddy Shaffer got on the horn and called the chief of the "campus police" handling the mental hospital and he confirmed that cameras would be confiscated. We later alerted Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who called off the police video-busting rule.


One official told us he thought the location of the delivered ballots should be a secret and that there would be no public observation of the intake process. We asked for the written procedures for the ballot intake and he said he hadn't been provided with any. Another member of the secretary of state's office said he could not confirm or deny that the ballots would be delivered to the archive building at all, and when you see the video of this you'll see that this was evasiveness, not lack of information.

We received a verbal description of the check-in process, which included a list of locations coming in and a check-off sheet. When we asked about the observaton area the official left, then came back and said no ballots would be delivered to the archives. Later, we learned that they would, after all, be delivered to the archives but only one city at a time. No written procedures for any of this, and quite a confusing time was being had by all.


A member of the Kucinich campaign tried to "wave me off" from looking into ballot chain of custody this evening. Another member of the Kucinich campaign said she has 100% confidence in the ballot chain of custody, even though, when I asked, she admitted she didn't know where the ballots go after leaving the towns.

This should be a huge concern for us. As the previous article, "Walking into a trap?" indicates, if you order a recount without first getting answers to the chain of custody questions, you may end up with a sham recount with stuffed or substituted ballots. No candidate's campaign should be satisfied with "trust" without asking and demanding answers to chain of custody questions.

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Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.
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