Is Your Vote Being Counted? The Answer Might Be No. - Granite Grok

Is Your Vote Being Counted? The Answer Might Be No.

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Is your vote being counted? If you live in a jurisdiction that utilizes electronic ballot counting devices (voting machines), the answer is a bit more likely to be “no.”  The following is a summary of how this simple fact was established.

Approximately 1/3 of the municipalities in New Hampshire are hand-counted towns (HCT), and approximately 2/3 are machine-counted towns (MCT).

Note:  a town may represent a voting jurisdiction by itself, or there may be multiple jurisdictions (wards) within a given town. Each of these jurisdictions is responsible for collecting, counting, and reporting their vote to the Secretary of State.

To make a direct comparison between these two methods, you must turn to districts in which a recount was conducted. You see, whether your town counts their vote by hand or by machine, recounts are ALWAYS conducted by hand. To begin with, one might consider why this is so; could it be because hand-counting is the most reliable method?

We’ll leave that for you to decide.

We want to thank Rep. Mark Alliegro for this Op-Ed. If you have an Op-Ed or LTE
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Meanwhile, recounted jurisdictions provide the only opportunity to ask directly: how close is the final, official vote to the original vote tally in jurisdictions originally counted by hand vs. by machine?

In 2016, there were 14 State Rep races and 1 State Senate race that faced recount. In 2018, there were 19 and 1, respectively, and in 2020 there were 9 and 2. It is important to know that upon recounting, there is usually an increase in the final tally of 0.2% – 0.3%. That is because there is a greater effort to deduce the intent of the voter.

For example, a ballot with a checkmark rather than a completely blackened bubble is more likely to be counted in the final recount. In other words, whether by hand or machine count, original vote tallies very often represent a slight undercount. However, when you compare the undercount in HCT vs. MCT, the latter is exaggerated.

In 2016, the average error was 0.3% in HCT vs. 0.7% in MCT.  In 2018 the average error was 0.2% in HCT vs. 0.4% in MCT, and in 2020 the error was 0.7% in HCT vs. 0.8% in MCT.

How would you react if told that the votes in your jurisdiction were undercounted by 0.5% in a given election?

And how would you react if told that from 2016 – 2020 there were 100 individual races — just in these recounted towns — that had errors of 0.5% or more? This happened 13 times in the jurisdictions of HCT, and 87 times within MCT.

To be fair, there were more recounts involving MCT, so all else being equal, we should expect more of such failures to occur in MCT. But the fact is, these failures were over-represented in MCT by an aggregate of 38%.

If you think these errors are small, consider the following, sent to us by Secretary of State Gardner’s office: From 1976 – 2020, there have been 322 races decided by 20 or fewer votes in New Hampshire. Also, note that the 2020 Windham debacle, passed off as a perfect storm of innocent errors, was nonetheless a machine-counting error.

Moreover, Windham was not a one-off.

In 2016 we had Ward 4 in Somersworth, where the errors were approximately 10% (ten percent) for 6 of the candidates. Had these races not been the subject of chance recounts, they would NEVER have been discovered.

How many more are there that will never be known?

This analysis is necessarily restricted to the 46 districts that WERE subjected to recount. Each biennium, including races for U.S. Senate, State Reps, County Commissioners, etc., there are over 1,000 offices up for election. We can never know how many of these were undercounted by 0.2%, or 0.5%, or 10%.

On Thursday, January 13, HB 1064 will be introduced in a public hearing to the House Election Law Committee at 2:00 pm in Room 306/308 of the Legislative Office Building. HB 1064 mandates that New Hampshire use hand-counting in all jurisdictions to avoid these obscene errors.

Your presence may help legislators understand that you are not satisfied with a system that depends upon counterbalancing randomized screw-ups to elect our representatives and other public servants.