Public to view ballot counters

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 07-31-2023 3:28 PM

The public will have a chance to look under the hood and kick the tires of ballot-counting machines next week, the latest step as New Hampshire decides how to upgrade its election-day systems.

The demonstration of ballot-counting devices from three companies will take place Wednesday, Aug. 2, in the Legislative Office Building, 33 N. State St. The public is invited but people should register for the event through this link: www.eventsquid.com/event/21055. There will be two sessions, one from 9 a.m. to noon, and one from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

For three decades, New Hampshire has used AccuVote machines to count ballots at polling places but they are so old that they use the long-unsupported operating system Windows XP and can be repaired only by cannibalizing other machines, since parts are no longer manufactured.

The Secretary of State’s office has been pushing the state to buy new machines for several years. That effort that has been complicated by controversies about election results, including a few lawmakers’ attempts to do away with machines altogether and rely on hand-counting of ballots, which is slower and less accurate.

Several companies make machines that optically scan ballots and tally the results. They differ mostly in how they present the information via screen and printout and how they handle the ballots after the counting is done.

Devices from several companies have been used in a few places during state and local elections over the past year as a test,  in towns as small as Woodstock and as large as Londonderry. Subsequent audits have found that all devices behaved properly.

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Any decision about changing the devices that towns and cities can use for elections will be made by the Ballot Law Commission, a 10-person body whose members are appointed by the Legislature and the governor. There is no timeline for replacing the AccuVote machines.

Ballot-counting devices from three vendors – Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software and VotingWorks – will be on hand for the demonstration. Two are by private companies; VotingWorks is a non-profit that uses open-source Linux software instead of proprietary systems as used by the other companies.

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