Democracy and Elections

NH Recount Finds Vote Count Errors

So far the errors highlight problems with electronic voting, but don't overturn Clinton's surprise victory.
Election integrity activists in New Hampshire are finding all kinds of problems with the electronic vote count in last week's presidential primary, after a first day of recounting the Democratic vote. But the problems so far have not changed the outcome of the race that Hillary Clinton won.

According to an extensive report by Brad Friedman, editor and publisher of the BradBlog, which tracks the election integrity community, there have been numerous errors -- small and large -- that the recount, a process where paper ballots that were originally scanned by computer are now counted by hand, has turned up.

These include: electronic tallies that were off by several votes, paper ballots the were not read by electronic scanners (550 in one town), ballots that were not read because the voters used the wrong kind of marking pen. He also reported that some election records are missing, notably computer memory cards.

Election integrity activists from across the country have converged in New Hampshire for the recount, seeing it as an opportunity to showcase the shortcomings of electronic voting systems -- and possibly explain Hillary Clinton's surprise victory in the New Hampshire primary. They were drawn to New Hampshire after noticing that Barack Obama won in precincts counted by hand while Hillary Clinton won in the computer-tallied precincts.

Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign requested and paid for the recount.

The activists have said that New Hampshire election officials, who used a Diebold optical scan system in 80 percent of the state -- where hand-marked paper ballots are scanned by computer to be counted -- should have audited the machine tallies on Election Night. While some New Hampshire precincts did that, it was not a widespread effort required by state officials.

Curiously, the activists' work may help build a case for a new bill to be introduced in the House today by Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, that would provide $600 million for election officials to replace paperless electronic voting machines with the same kind of optical scan system used in New Hampshire, but only if those jurisdictions conduct mandatory audits of the vote totals -- which is what New Hampshire is doing now.

Ironically, in New Hampshire the problems of electronic voting can be seen and tracked because there is a paper audit trail. In the upcoming South Carolina primary, where the state uses paperless electronic voting systems, there will be no independent audit trail to verify the vote.

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Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at and co-author of "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election," with Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (The New Press, 2006).