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New Hampshire Vote Tabulation Machine Failed in November Pilot

A pilot test of new ballot counting machines in one of three New Hampshire towns failed, according to Secretary of State David Scanlan. The new machines were being tested as replacements for existing obsolete technology.

(TNS) — New ballot-counting devices tested in the Nov. 8 election broke down in one of the three small towns chosen for the pilot, Secretary of State David Scanlan said Monday.

The machine was made by VotingWorks. It used open-source software rather than company-supplied software, which some advocates have said would improve voter confidence because its operations were more transparent to the public.

Since the mid-1990s, the Ballot Law Commission has only allowed the AccuVote ballot counting device to be used in all cities and towns that don't count ballots by hand.

The manufacturer no longer makes replacement parts for this machine, forcing some New Hampshire cities and towns to purchase machines from communities in other states that upgraded their technology.

At Scanlan's request, local officials in Ashland, Woodstock and Newington had agreed to count votes last Nov. 8 using the VotingWorks machines.

While the count went without incident in Ashland and Woodstock, the machine used in Newington broke down after an obstruction had jammed it.

In response, local officials instead used their existing AccuVote machines to process all the remaining ballots.

"The VotingWorks team discovered the cause of the malfunction and made recommendations to avoid it during future use," Scanlan said in a statement.

Brent Turner, an election reform advocate in California, praised Scanlan for conducting this experiment.

"It appears the open source voting system pilot was deemed successful by both the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Voting Works. This is a great step toward further deployment efforts and will be of benefit as a shining example to the nation," Turner said.

The problem in Newington was that the state's election machine vendor had given Newington officials ink ballot markers, Turner said.

In the future, ballpoint pen markers should be used to mark the ballots as they would not cause jams as the heavy ink markers did, he said.

Scanlan is working with officials in other cities and towns to test out the next generation of optical scanning machines at their local elections this March.

The Ballot Law Commission will discuss this pilot program at its meeting Wednesday.

©2023 The New Hampshire Union Leader, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.