The Senate is considering making voting machine audits permanent

Published: 2/1/2023 4:44:21 PM

Modified: 02/01/2023 16:44:09

During the 2022 election, the Office of the New Hampshire Secretary of State audited voting machines at six different polling stations and checked them for accuracy and consistency as part of a one-time requirement from the legislature.

Now Senate lawmakers are hoping to make the exam permanent.

Senate Bill 157 would require the agency to test at least two AccuVote devices on election day during the state primary and up to eight devices during the general election.

The audits would have to be conducted in specific cities and boroughs across the state, which will be chosen at random, the bill says. They would be carried out publicly by persons appointed and trained by the Secretary of State.

At least 5 percent of the scanned ballots per machine would have to be checked, the draft law goes on to say. The decisions on the ballots must be compared with the results recorded in the machines, and any differences must be documented.

Senator James Gray, a Rochester Republican and a lead sponsor of the bill, said the bill was an important expansion of mandatory testing over the past year.

Legislature passed a bill in 2022, Senate Bill 366, that mandated testing of two cities or boroughs in the September state primaries and four in the general election. New Hampshire was one of the last states in the country to introduce election testing, according to Assistant Secretary of State Patricia Lovejoy.

None of the six audits uncovered discrepancies, the foreign minister’s office reported last year.

The issue has found bipartisan support; Eighty-two percent of Granite Staters polled by the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights said they support some form of post-election review, said McKenzie St. Germain, the group’s campaign director.

But some voting rights groups, like the Brennan Center for Justice, say the bill should be expanded.

Lisa Danetz, a representative for the center, argued that the bill should require all ballots at the chosen polling station to be audited — including hand-counted ballots — and not just AccuVote-counted ballots.

She also argued that the audits should be conducted in a broader range of cities and towns and that the sample should be “a representative cross section of the different types of state jurisdictions, large and small, machine counting and hand counting, in different areas of the state.”

The issue, argued Danetz, “has never been so important.”

“Routine, well-designed post-election testing can provide New Hampshire voters with confidence that their ballots have been counted correctly,” she said.