State: One Laconia ward double-counted some votes and missed others in 2020 elections

Monitor staff
Published: 8/16/2022 3:59:32 PM

An election moderator in Laconia had a “complete failure to understand” how ballot-counting machines operate, resulting in some votes being double-counted and others overlooked in one of that city’s wards during 2020 elections, the state Attorney General’s Office has ruled.

“The investigation found no evidence supporting deliberate or intentional misconduct by Laconia Ward 6 election officials,” the office wrote in a press release. Instead, it said that the errors were caused by Ward 6 moderator Tony Felch, who has since resigned, and another election official.

In particular, the report said that Felch and election officials failed to reconcile vote tallies after the 2020 primary and general election – that is, make sure that the total number of votes counted by ballot-counting machines was reflected in the total number of ballots cast.

“The inability of election officials to reconcile election results should have triggered immediate concern. However, neither Moderator Felch nor the former City Clerk notified the Secretary of State or Attorney General’s Office of the issues,” the release said.

The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, will be appointing an election monitor for the Sept. 13 party primary election.

It’s possible the counting errors could have changed the outcome of elections, however, if that happened no available remedy exists.

“Deadlines for any recount for races on the ballots in question have long passed,” the released noted. “There are no statutory mechanisms to revisit the vote counts for 2020 elections in Laconia Ward 6.”

Two types of errors were listed by the investigation. In one case, 120 ballots from the 2020 primary and 59 from the 2020 general election were found in a side pocket of a voting machine, apparently placed there because the automatic machine could not read them, but had never been counted.

In the 2020 general election, 1,944 total votes were reported as having been cast.

In another case, the report said, votes on ballots with write-in candidates were counted twice because Felch did not understand how the Accuvote machines handle such ballots.

When the machines encounter a write-in name on a race they tally all the other races and leave that race to be counted manually. When doing the manual count of the write-ins, Laconia Ward 6 officials also counted all the other races, thus double-counting those votes.

The report said that “due to grossly inadequate Ward 6 election records” it was impossible to determine exactly how many votes were missed or double-counted, and it “remains a possibility that the number of votes lost from the uncounted ballots or added from double-counting” could have changed the result for some races.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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