CONCORD, NH (AP) — New Hampshire has a good election record, but it would benefit from a voter confidence commission to address residents’ concerns during a time of political polarization, its new secretary of administration said Tuesday. ‘State.
“It’s been clear to me that for some time now, a few years, there’s just been a decline, both nationally and in the state of New Hampshire, in voters’ general belief in the accuracy of election results,” David Scanlan told a news conference from his Statehouse office.
He added: “I felt it was really important to start a discussion on this topic – a very public topic – involving very knowledgeable people with diverse interests, so we kind of get to the bottom of the reasons for which we find ourselves in a situation, and how we can stop and reverse this trend.
Scanlan replaced Bill Gardner, who retired in January after 45 years overseeing elections, state archives and other divisions. Scanlan had been Under Secretary of State for 20 years.
The announcement came months after an audit of a legislative race in Windham, where a discrepancy caught the attention of former President Donald Trump and his supporters seeking to bolster unfounded allegations of voter fraud.
The audit showed that the cause of the discrepancy was not a vote-counting machine, but a separate machine used to fold mail-in ballots. But those who reject that conclusion have pushed to either get rid of automated counting machines or conduct audits.
Scanlan said New Hampshire’s elections are strong because the system is decentralized, where “literally thousands” of elected and appointed local election officials run elections.
“For that reason, it’s a very human process, which also has to be understood as not being a perfect process,” he said.
The Windham case was a human error “made in good faith to try to make the system more efficient”, said commission co-chairman Bradford Cook. He also heads the state’s Ballot Law Commission, which deals with election disputes and controversies.
“Yet if people think there must be wrong somewhere, well, all we can do is present them with the facts,” he said.
The eight-member bipartisan commission, which includes activists, a member of various nonprofits and former lawmakers, wants to hold listening sessions across the state. Scanlan begins giving presentations on the commission this week.
The other co-chair, former U.S. Representative Dick Swett, a Democrat, recalled his 1996 U.S. Senate race against incumbent Republican Bob Smith. Media organizations incorrectly declared him the winner based on exit polls.
“I know how things can go a little awry,” he said. “We want to make sure that the good technology that we have in New Hampshire, the good people who participate in the polls and the good system that we have can be kept as is or improved” by the commission.
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