State voter-confidence panel finds NH elections are accurate

Nov. 17—CONCORD — A draft report from the state's Special Committee on Voter Confidence says New Hampshire elections are accurate, there's no evidence of widespread fraud and ballot-counting devices are reliable.

In the document, the committee recommends expanded training of election officials, increased post-election audits and consideration of an independent redistricting commission.

Richard Swett, the committee's co-chair, said Wednesday the panel has reached a general consensus on the contents of the draft report and vetted it but is in a detailed finalization process.

N.H. Secretary of State David Scanlan formed the committee on April 26 as a bipartisan effort to address concerns about declines in voter confidence.

On Wednesday, the group spent more than four hours going over the document word by word. The meeting bogged down with a lengthy discussion focused on where summaries of those who testified to the committee should appear in the report.

"The difficulties today had more to do with the length of the hem as opposed to the fit of the dress," said Swett, who formerly was a Democratic U.S. representative and a U.S. ambassador to Denmark and currently is a board member for the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire.

One finding of the report is that confidence in elections is lower than in the past, but still high.

"As a result of intentional misinformation regarding the safety and accuracy of our electoral process, there has been an erosion of confidence in elections here and nationally recently," it says.

Criticism of elections was repeated and magnified on social media, and this contributed to some loss of confidence in the electoral system, the report found.

A host of so-called election deniers were defeated at the polls around the country on Nov. 8.

"I think most people feel that this past election was a repudiation of the chaos, the misinformation, all the things that one would say comes out of the mouth of an election denier," Swett said.

The report says better training of election officials could lead to more public confidence in the election system.

"Local officials largely do a good job, but their training is voluntary and varies," the report says. "Testimony indicated that extensive training is available to those administering N.H. elections. Some mechanism should be implemented to improve and encourage standardized training."

It also says New Hampshire's partisan redistricting process, or the drawing of voting districts for political advantage by the party in control of the Legislature, undermines voter trust.

"Consideration should be given to the implementation of an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission so all voters can have confidence that there is no manipulation of districts or unfair bias to one party or another," the report says.

The committee took testimony at nine public hearings across New Hampshire from May 2 to Sept. 6, including one at the Keene Public Library on Sept. 6.

The panel invited witnesses and took comments from the public, which ran the gamut from criticism of voting machines to assertions that the committee's creation amounted to reinforcement of unfounded claims of election fraud and conspiracy theories.

Many people expressed confidence in the election system, however, and in voting machines' accuracy.

Former secretary of state William Gardner testified that New Hampshire is one of the easiest places to vote and that polls show voters agree with this observation.

Turnout percentages in New Hampshire traditionally are among the highest of states, according to the N.H. Secretary of State's website.

Bradford Cook co-chairs the voter-confidence committee with Swett. Cook is chairman of the N.H. Ballot Law Commission and former president of Sheehan Phinney law firm.

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 for the N.H. Land & Community Heritage Investment Program; Jim Splaine, a former New Hampshire legislator; Douglass Teschner, president of Growing Leadership in Pike, N.H.; Olivia Zink, executive director of Open Democracy in Concord; and Ken Eyring, co-founder of the Government Integrity Project.

The report, when finalized, culminates the committee's work.

Rick Green can be reached at or 603-355-8567.