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A Call for Transparency and Accountability in Hampton NH heads to Superior Court June 11, 2024.

Updated: Jun 3

The integrity of our elections is the cornerstone of our State. As citizens of NH, we hold a duty to ensure that our electoral process is transparent, secure, and accountable. Recent events surrounding the March 12, 2024, Hampton town election have raised serious concerns that must be addressed to uphold the sanctity of our State.

The Issue at Hand

On March 18, 2024, 15 voters from Hampton petitioned the Town Clerk for a recount of five ballot questions from the March 12, 2024, town Warrant Article (ballot). This recount was requested under NH RSA 40:4-c, which allows for a recount if at least 10 voters apply within 7 days of the election. The recount was scheduled for March 27, 2024, at 9 AM.

However, on March 26, 2024, the lead petitioner observed open (unsealed) ballot boxes that had been used in the March 12, 2024, election. Two photos were taken, showing clear violations of NH RSA 669:32, which requires that ballot boxes be sealed and opened only in the presence of a recount board.

Violations and Concerns

  1. Open Ballot Boxes: The open ballot boxes were a direct violation of NH RSA 669:32, which mandates that the clerk publicly break the seal of the ballot package at the time and place of the recount.

  2. Incomplete Recount: During the recount on March 27, 2024, 30 ballot boxes were present, but only 16 were opened and recounted. The remaining 14 boxes were claimed to contain unused ballots. This partial recount raises questions about the thoroughness and accuracy of the process.

  3. Improperly Sealed Ballot Boxes: Some ballot boxes lacked the official seals required by NH RSA 659:95. The town clerk stated they had "run out" of seals, which is unacceptable and compromises the chain of custody.

  4. Discrepancies in Ballot Box Counts: The post-recount audit revealed that there were 47 ballot boxes logged, but only 16 were examined during the recount. Additionally, seven boxes were not signed off on or documented properly.

  5. Irregularities with Counting Devices: One ballot counting device was zeroed out and recalibrated during the election, and the pre-election certificate did not include the serial number of one counting device. The moderator's post-election certificate was also not dated, violating NH RSA 659:73 and NH RSA 659:60.

Calls for Action

Given these significant discrepancies and violations, further action is necessary to ensure the integrity of the March 12, 2024, election:

  1. Citizen Review of All Ballot Boxes: A physical review of all 47 ballot boxes used in the election is essential to verify the contents and ensure proper handling.

  2. Formal Complaint to NH Department of Justice: On May 3, 2024, a formal complaint will be filed with the NH Department of Justice, requesting a complete forensic audit of all materials contained in the ballot boxes. This audit should be public and transparent, allowing citizens to oversee the process.

  3. Adherence to Article 8 of the NH Bill of Rights: All post-recount audit requests are made under Article 8, emphasizing the public's right to government accountability and access to proceedings and records.

The recent recount and subsequent audit of the March 12, 2024, Hampton town election have highlighted critical issues in ballot security and transparency. Ensuring that all election procedures are followed accurately and transparently is vital to maintaining public trust in our democratic process. By addressing these concerns and demanding accountability, we can uphold the principles of democracy and protect the integrity of our elections.

On May 16, 2024, a Right-to-Know request was made for a visual inspection of all 47 voting containers/boxes used in the March 12, 2024, Hampton Town Election. This request aimed to address concerns about the integrity and transparency of the election process, following observed violations and discrepancies during the recount and post-recount audit.

The request for a visual inspection of the exterior of all 47 voting containers/boxes has been denied by the town based on the following grounds:

NH RSA 659:95: This statute explicitly prohibits access to ballots stored in boxes within a town vault. According to NH RSA 659:95:

"Ballots, including cast, cancelled, and uncast ballots and successfully challenged absentee ballots still contained in their envelopes, prepared or preserved in accordance with the election laws shall be exempt from the provisions of RSA 91-A. This exemption shall apply to any ballots or absentee voter affidavit envelopes prepared for or used in any election conducted by the state or any political subdivision, including federal elections."

The town clerk’s office maintains that allowing a visual inspection of the exterior of the ballot boxes could potentially compromise the security and confidentiality of the ballots contained within. This position aligns with the statutory obligation to protect the integrity of the ballots from any form of tampering or unauthorized access until the expiration of 60 days post-recount, as stipulated in NH RSA 669:33.

The denial of the request for visual inspection underscores the town’s commitment to maintaining the integrity and security of the election process. While the concerns raised are valid and reflect the public's right to know and ensure accountability, it is equally important to adhere to legal frameworks designed to protect the electoral process.

Despite the denial, it is crucial to continue pursuing transparency and accountability within the bounds of the law. Here are recommended next steps:

  1. Formal Complaint: Proceed with the formal complaint to the NH Department of Justice as planned. This complaint should include a detailed account of the observed violations and discrepancies, accompanied by all relevant evidence and documentation.

  2. Request for Forensic Audit: Include in the complaint a request for the Department of Justice to conduct a forensic audit of all materials contained in the 47 ballot boxes. Ensure this audit is public and allows for citizen oversight.

  3. Public Awareness: Continue to inform and engage the public about the importance of election integrity. Transparency in this process can be maintained by sharing updates and findings in a manner that adheres to legal guidelines.

The denial of the request for visual inspection of the ballot boxes is a reminder of the delicate balance between ensuring transparency and protecting the integrity of the election process. Continued efforts to seek accountability and adherence to lawful procedures remain paramount. By pursuing appropriate legal channels and maintaining public engagement, we can work towards a more transparent and trustworthy electoral system.

The Superior Court hearing regarding the right-to-know violation has been scheduled for June 11, 2024, 9AM at the Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood, NH. The public is welcome to attend.

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