Several different ballot-counting devices succeeded in tests during recent town elections, as state looks for replacement

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 04-07-2023 5:57 PM

Three different vote-counting machines were tested during last month’s local elections in New Hampshire and all handled the complicated town meeting ballots just fine, according to reports from election workers. More tests are set during May elections as the state decides how to replace its aging AccuVote machines.

During the March elections, which were scrambled by the snowstorm on Town Meeting day, ballot counting devices were tested in Ashland, which used devices from the company Clear Ballot;  in Winchester, which used them from ES&S; and in Londonderry and Milford, which used devices from Dominion ImageCast.

They all operate like the state’s existing AccuVote machines: Voters fill in paper ballots by hand and feed  them into the device, which uses light and software to determine which ovals had been filled in next to which candidates or warrant articles. Aside from maintaining a count of votes, the devices have to know what to do with undervotes and overvotes – cases when too many or too few ovals are filled in for a particular race – and how to deal with write-ins, usually by moving the ballot to a separate tray for hand-counting.

The tallies in each town were double-checked by hand counting. In every case, an audit by staff from the Secretary of State’s office found “the device is capable of accurately tabulating a ballot for those votes with a properly filled in corresponding oval, and results of the hand-count audit were within expected margins,” according to reports forwarded to the state’s Ballot Law Commission.

The Ballot Law Commission, a 10-person body whose members are appointed by the Legislature and the governor, will make recommendations about how and whether to get new machines.

New Hampshire has been looking for years to replace the AccuVote machines, which have been used for three decades. They run on the long-unsupported operating system Windows XP, and no parts are made for them anymore. Repairs can only be done by cannibalizing other machines, including many bought from other states that have stopped using them.

There is no timeline for replacing the AccuVote machines.

Moultonborough will be testing a device from the company VotingWorks at their elections in May while Hanover will do the same with an ES&S device. The VotingWorks device, which unlike the others is based on open-source rather than proprietary software, was tested in three precincts during statewide elections in November and was judged accurate in those races.

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