On the Trail: Sununu addresses Windham recount results that show Republicans were shorted votes

  • Gov. Chris Sununu wears a protective mask at a polling station in Windham on Nov. 3. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 2/19/2021 5:32:23 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu says he won’t let “slip by” an apparent voting discrepancy in a state House of Representatives race in Windham – which has grabbed national exposure and even caught the attention of former President Donald Trump.

“We’re not going to let that slip by. We’re going to attack it, at all levels, and make sure that we really get to the root of the problem,” New Hampshire’s three-term Republican governor said Thursday at a news conference. “And make sure that, even though it may have been a small problem, that it isn’t systematic across anything.”

The saga began on Election Day last November when Democrat Kristi St. Laurent, a candidate for one of four seats to represent Rockingham District 7 in the state House, was just 24 votes shy of winning. The narrow margin triggered a recount of the ballots.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The recount discovered that four long-serving AccuVote optical scanning machines that were used on Election Day shorted the four GOP candidates in the contest between 297 and 303 votes. Three other Democratic candidates were shorted 18 to 28 votes, but the recound showed St. Laurent was credited with 99 more votes than were cast for her.

The result of the recount – which was witnessed by dozens of officials and observers – was, to say the least, puzzling.

With state law only allowing for a single recount in political races, New Hampshire’s Ballot Law Commission accepted the recount’s results. But Republicans asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the matter.

The Attorney General’s Office reviewed the vote discrepancy but was clear to say it wasn’t a formal investigation.

State Sen. Bob Giuda, a former FBI agent, called the lack of an investigation troubling. The Granite Grok blog in New Hampshire and the conservative news website The Gateway Pundit gave the story plenty of attention.

Sununu said on Thursday that the Attorney General’s Office review would soon be available. He also pointed to a state Senate bill to allow for future checks of New Hampshire’s optical voting machines and said, “I think the state is coming at it from a couple of different angles.”

The governor also emphasized that the discrepancy was small in size and tried to extinguish cries of a conspiracy.

“The fact that we can get granular and focus on one or maybe two machines, or hand-counting 300 individual votes, I think that speaks to the immense integrity of our system,” Sununu said. “And the incredible accuracy. Through all of the different communities in the state, we’re talking about one or two machines in one community.”

Enter Howie Carr, the well-known nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host and strong supporter and ally of the former president.

Carr briefly chatted with Trump late last week while dining at Mar-A-Lago, the former president’s residence in Florida.

Carr said he told Trump about the vote discrepancy in Windham, which he said piqued the former president’s interest.

After Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire in the 2016 general election to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he charged without providing proof the there was massive voter fraud in the state.

Trump continues to refuse to concede the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and has promoted unfounded claims that last year’s election was “rigged” and “stolen” from him.

Sununu ‘open to’Senate run

Sununu appears to be opening the door a bit more to a potential Republican Senate challenge next year against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

Hassan, a former two-term governor and Sununu’s predecessor in the corner office, is running in 2022 for a second six-year term representing New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.

There’s plenty of speculation that Sununu may challenge Hassan next year instead of running for re-election for a fourth two-year term as the executive of the Granite State.

While years ago dismissing talk of a Senate bid, Sununu’s language appears to be moderating on the subject.

On Friday, asked by radio host Jack Heath on “Good Morning New Hampshire” about a possible 2022 Senate run, the governor said he’s “definitely open to it. I am.”

Moments later he reiterated that “I’m open to it. We haven’t completely shut the door. ... It’s something that I’m considering.”

But he added “maybe I run for governor again. Maybe I go into the private sector.”

The latest comments by the governor – whose poll numbers in New Hampshire remain extremely healthy – may cheer national Republicans, who would love to see Sununu take on Hassan in next year’s contest. While playing plenty of defense next year as they try to regain the Senate majority – the GOP’s defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2022 – national Republicans see New Hampshire as one of four states where they have a chance of flipping a blue seat red.

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