Technical challenges leaves NH’s Jan. 6 House votes uncounted

  • New Hampshire. State Representatives stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during an outdoor meeting of the New Hampshire House of Representatives in a parking lot, due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, at the University of New Hampshire Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

The Keene Sentinel
Published: 9/23/2021 5:53:00 PM

Technical challenges that plagued the N.H. House of Representatives’ Jan. 6 session – held in a drive-in format in a University of New Hampshire parking lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic – resulted in several votes not being counted, according to the House record from that day.

During the session, which consisted largely of ceremonial items – including several votes taken in response to news of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol – representatives listened to the discussion on the radio and voted from their vehicles. They used wireless devices to cast their votes, but because of the unusual set-up of the session, technical difficulties popped up often.

“On the session day of January 6, the House utilized a voting device system whereby members entered their votes via keypad and were recorded utilizing a radio frequency-based receiver,” according to a clerk’s note on page 4 of the House record for Jan. 6. “Unfortunately, through circumstances beyond the control of staff and the system, some votes were not captured for a variety of reasons, including interference from other electronic devices, vehicles acting as Faraday shields, and the like.”

The clerk’s note also says that after the session, some legislators informed House Clerk Paul Smith that their votes had been missed, and their votes were then entered into the record and listed beneath the votes that were recorded for the session. In those cases, voting records published by the State House website reflect those missed votes as excused.

Of the 32 state representatives serving the 31 communities covered by The Sentinel, 12 of them are recorded as being present at the Jan. 6 session but still missing some votes. Only two of them are listed as having notified the clerk that their votes hadn’t been counted: Rep. Walter Spilsbury, R-Charlestown, who claimed one vote that wasn’t registered, and Rep. Larry Welkowitz, D-Keene, who claimed three.

Meanwhile, another four legislators – Reps. Judy Aron, R-Acworth; John Bordenet, D-Keene; Jim Qualey, R-Rindge; and Ivy Vann, D-Peterborough – all say they participated in all votes during the Jan. 6 session. However, voting records show at least one missed vote that day for each of them.

Aron, whose record lists her as missing one vote that day, said last month that she was certain she voted on every item but wasn’t aware that one vote hadn’t been counted until a graphic included in an Aug. 14 Sentinel story listed her as missing the vote. It was only then that she learned there had been technical difficulties, she said, and her vote hadn’t registered.

Bordenet, whose record shows six missed votes that day, also said he was present for the whole day and can’t recall any reason he might have missed something.

“I definitely would have voted,” he said.

Meanwhile, Qualey, whose voting record also lists one missed vote that day, said that he had technical difficulties, too, and reported them to the clerk. The session record says Qualey meant to vote no on the item but accidentally voted yes. Qualey said he was struggling with the clicker.

“As you can imagine, I’m irked that I was indeed present and voted on every vote, and my record does not accurately reflect this fact due to a fault in the technology,” he said.

Vann also said she was present for the entire session and voted on every item. Any recorded misses, she said, were “certainly due to technical difficulties.”

Seven of the eight remaining representatives to miss some votes on Jan. 6 said that they missed those votes for other reasons, such as leaving early or having vehicle trouble exacerbated by the drive-in setting, as in the case of Rep. Daniel Pickering, D-Hancock.

Rep. Sparky Von Plinsky, D-Keene, missed all but two votes out of 13 that day. He wasn’t reachable for comment about the matter of technical difficulties, but said during the summer that he left the January session early due to concerns about a lack of COVID-19 safety precautions.

While the other legislators said their missed votes on Jan. 6 were legitimate, some said they still had issues with the wireless voting system.

“I did miss those last four votes,” Rep. Jennie Gomarlo, D-Swanzey, said in an email. “I left when I thought we were finished and hadn’t heard about the insurrection yet (prompting the last three votes). That said, I did have trouble with my clicker that day and they finally had me move my car closer to the front. That session was indeed the biggest (expletive) show of this term to date, and there have been a few!”

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.



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