New Hampshire officials guaranteed election havoc at the Iowa caucuses, caused by technological error, will not occur in that state, where votes are cast with pencils on paper and most are counted by machines.
(TNS) — Election havoc at the Iowa caucuses, caused by technological error, will not occur in New Hampshire, where votes are cast with pencils on paper and most are counted by machines that aren't connected to the internet, assured Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
"It's not going to happen here," he said. "We're in good shape."
Gardner said he's consistently asked the Legislature to keep the state's voting process simple because every moving part adds to the chance of failure. He explained in detail how New Hampshire's votes are counted, in advance of Tuesday's primary election.
Voters cast votes with pencils, their own or pencils provided at the polls, before 85% of them are counted by Accuvote ballot-counting devices in communities including Portsmouth, Rye, Dover, Durham, Exeter, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Rochester, Seabrook and Stratham. If voters mark ballots with their own pens, Gardner said, those will be counted as well.
The ballots remain the same, the candidates change and polls close after the last person in line has voted, Gardner explained. Most New Hampshire voters place their ballots in a counter machine, which keep a tally kept in a statewide database, again not connected to the internet, Gardner said. Votes in towns without machines are hand counted.
When polls close, a tape is run from the counters that have printed totals for both parties, said the secretary of state. The media, lawyers and party representatives are known to stay behind to hear totals called at individual polls, then they total the totals for their own unconfirmed results.
At the municipal level, Gardner said, clerks transcribe their totals on a state form, place it in a "special envelope" and they're delivered to police stations for pick up by state troopers. Those will arrive at the secretary of state's office at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Gardner said. As back up, the state still has every paper ballot, he said.
To prepare for the primary, Gardner explained, city and town clerks were required to test their counters by placing 50 test ballots into every machine, with votes cast for every candidate. The ballots had to be inserted right side up, right side down and upside down, before results were confirmed by hand, he said.
Those tests are required to be conducted in public, then the vote-counting boxes are locked up until primary day, Gardner explained. The memory cards are kept by city and town clerks.
Portsmouth City Clerk Kelli Barnaby said she tested the city's voting machines Tuesday, confirmed they are all in working order and locked them in a vault until Tuesday. She said she tested ballots with votes for every candidate, ballots with write-in votes and others with votes cast for two candidates when only one is allowed.
Barnaby said in her 31 years working for the city, one failed memory card was the only temporary election problem.
Gardner said activity in the statewide voter database is always monitored by "a couple of firms," as well as the state's Office of Information Technology.
"There is no other technology," he said. "Just our database."
He said the federal government recently provided funding for additional cyber security and, "If someone's knocking on the door, we'll know about it."
He reminded that when people talk about hacked elections, they're referring to campaigns that were impacted by propaganda pushed through social media.
"No machines were hacked," said Gardner, who was briefed last week by experts from the FBI. "No votes were changed."
Gardner said he'll be hosting an open house with the attorney general's office later this week to announce voter turnout predictions.
"More than a half million," is all he'd say Tuesday.
Barnaby said about 60 people a day, for the past week, have gone to her office to register to vote, change a name or an address. She predicts high voter turnout in Portsmouth where four years ago 56% of residents casts votes in the primary election.
"So I expect at least that," she said.
Gardner said the attorney general's office will have a voter hotline to report any suspicious activity and have 54 people monitoring polls around the state. In November, he said, he personally visited polls in Durham, Portsmouth and Seabrook.
In December, the secretary of state's office announced an Amazon Alexa application for answers about the state's election.
It starts with users instructing, "Alexa, enable state of New Hampshire elections." From there, users can ask how to register to vote, the location of polling places and access "a robust notification system where users can choose to provide limited contact information and methods by which the New Hampshire Secretary of State's Office can send additional information and updates, including filing deadlines and reminders about absentee ballots."
Residents can register to vote on primary day at the polls and party affiliation changes cannot be made until after Tuesday's election.
Gardner said New Hampshire residents "really want to vote" and reminded that 14 of 17 of the last presidents won New Hampshire primaries.
Barnaby said after the polls close Tuesday, public works employees will deliver results to her from each of the polls and she'll tally unofficial results. She reminded no political buttons or campaign clothing is allowed in the polls and a picture ID is required to vote.
When she hand counts the write-ins, Barnaby said from experience, someone will probably have cast a vote for Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. At every local election, Portsmouth's city clerk said, someone always casts a vote for the late Eileen Foley, an eight-term mayor and seven-term state senator who died four years ago.
©2020 Portsmouth Herald, N.H. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.