The final results of the forensic audit in Windham, NH, were quietly delivered to the New Hampshire Department of Justice by the Forensic Audit Team on July 13, 2021. The audit, which came to a close on May 27, was replete with controversy and left many Windham voters feeling frustrated, disenfranchised, and apprehensive that the final audit report would offer a thorough and unbiased analysis. Indeed, the final report remained in line with the auditors' position before the critical event got underway. Ultimately, the auditors "found no basis to believe that the miscounts found in Windham indicate a pattern of partisan bias or a failed election." The SoS and AG will prepare their own report on the audit and any resulting recommendations.
The Backstory on the Forensic Audit in Windham
As reported by UncoverDC, the audit came to life following Democratic state representative candidate Kristi St. Laurent's request for a recount after losing by 24 votes. The recount results showed the four Republican candidates, each gaining approximately 300 votes. St. Laurent lost 99 votes on the recount, while her three fellow Democrat candidates gained 21, 28, and 18. The recount was appealed to the NH Ballot Law Commission, which held a public hearing and then voted unanimously to uphold the election of the four Republican candidates but requested an investigation by the AG's office, which led to the passage of SB43, mandating the audit.
Windham's Board of Selectmen chose the three auditors, NH's Attorney General (AG) and the Secretary of State (SoS), who selected Mark Lindeman, Harri Hursti, and Philip Stark. Prior to Windham's audit, all three publicly declared there was no credible evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.
As the audit progressed, the auditors blamed ballot folds from a folding machine borrowed from the Dept. of Motor Vehicles due to COVID-19 as the cause of issues with absentee ballots. They were quick to point out it was an issue isolated to Windham, with no statewide implications despite the fact Phillip Stark described an astonishing error rate ranging from 25% to 72% due to ballot folding. This conclusion didn't sit well with the voters of Windham.
When the audit wrapped up at the end of May, the team had dwindled from three to one, with computer programmer and voting machine hacker Harri Hursti managing the audit by himself. Hursti, who remarked that worries over him working alone were unwarranted due to the security cameras, opened the voting machines and examined them forensically by himself. The day after the audit was over, Marilyn Todd of the NH Voter Integrity Group spotted highly questionable activity on photographs she had taken of voting machine tapes, raising questions about whether the machines and memory cards had been tampered with, as well as additional concerns over the role of Jeff Silvestro of LHS Associates in New England's elections.
In an interview with local station WMUR immediately after the conclusion of the audit, Hursti said the exhaustive investigation exposed no evidence of wrongdoing or manipulation of the voting machines in Windham. Hursti commented that he was perplexed by the influx of question-raising videos created around the auditors' work, adding:
"Nothing today is showing evidence of fraud. Nothing today is showing evidence of digital manipulation of the machines. Right now, this seems to be a case of a perfect storm where so many things happened in order to have this discrepancy. It's amazing how much disinformation and dishonest reporting has been spreading, especially last night. I need to have a second beer when watching those."
Final: New Hampshire SB43 Forensic Audit Report
The overall findings of the final New Hampshire SB 43 Forensic Audit Report conclude that the discrepancy between election night totals and the recounts in Windham can be attributed to "unforeseen consequences and misfortune.” The report blamed the vote count differences for the candidates—specifically St. Laurent—on "harried election officials," and the folding machine borrowed to fold ballots, as well as how they were "ironed" after being folded. Ballot "ironing" occurs typically with a coin or a scissors handle and is done to further flatten the ballot. Describing the fold debacle as an isolated incident exclusive to Windham, they insist there is no reason to believe the folding machine was adjusted to create the ballot fold problem. The report points out that the 402-page New Hampshire Election Procedure Manual contains no instructions on folding (or not folding) absentee ballots.
The report explains that after "having accounted for why so many ballots were folded through St. Laurent's vote target," the auditor's next step was to experiment with four "test decks of 75 absentee (scored) ballots apiece." Two of the test decks were unfolded, and the other two were folded and "ironed" to "match the folds from November." Two of Windham's four AccuVote machines were used to count the test decks: the "school" machine, which was least accurate in the complete tabulation, and "machine 2," which was used to tabulate the majority of absentee ballots on election day.
According to the audit report, which suggests state officials consider not sending out folded absentee ballots in the future, the difference between the two sets of experimental results for folded ballots "is most likely due to differences in how the ballots were "ironed," or some other difference between the test decks—not to the difference between overvotes and erroneous votes." The report continues:
That said, our test procedure was not designed to closely estimate the likely error rate for absentee ballots counted on Election Day. We could not hope to reconstruct exactly how the Windham ballots were ironed (although the microscopic comparison indicates that we are not far off), nor the effects of being mailed, flattened during voting, refolded, mailed again, opened, and perhaps manually flattened before being scanned.
Meanwhile, despite the predictable final results of the forensic audit, voters from Windham and across New Hampshire are undeterred in their crusade for Election Integrity. Last week, the Government Integrity Project had a massive win in the town of Danville. The group united together and used their voices to flip the balance of the Danville Select Board from progressive to conservative. With just a few weeks to organize and run a campaign, the group picked a write-in candidate to oppose a select board member—who is also a school board member—who, not long ago, had a Sunday School teacher arrested at a school board meeting for not wearing a mask, despite her medical exemption. Lisa Mazur said of the victory:
"We are over the moon! This is how our civil rights process should work. We The People used our voices and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of and watch! The election of Scott Borucki flipped the composition of the Danville Select Board from progressive to conservative. That is the true meaning of success!"