Expert picked for team to lead Windham election audit

Kevin Landrigan, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
·3 min read

May 3—CONCORD — A Finnish data security expert is the state's pick to serve on the three-person forensic team that will audit the ballots cast in Windham last November.

Working in five countries as the co-founder of Nordic Innovation Labs, Harry Hursti has in the past uncovered how some automated ballot-counting machines could be hacked.

Hursti was profiled in a pair of HBO documentaries about election security.

His selection was made by Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Attorney General John Formella under the law ordering the audit.

Meanwhile, a member of the Windham Board of Selectmen wants the board to reconsider its own pick for the audit team — Mark Lindeman, the acting co-director of Verified Voting — after learning Lindeman signed two letters calling for an election audit in Arizona to be shut down.

The board was expected this week to take up the request of Selectman Bruce Breton, the lone opponent in the 3-1 vote to choose Lindeman last month.

Breton supported Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, an inventor and computer scientist who was involved in the Maricopa County, Ariz., recount and was on a list of experts Gardner said were credible.

Some state Democratic leaders have panned Pulitzer as a conservative partisan.

A hand recount three weeks after the Nov. 3 election found all four Republicans running for seats in the New Hampshire House in Windham had received about 300 more votes than were reported from automatic AccuVote counting machines on election night.

Many critics have seized on the results to question the accuracy of the automated machines used for elections in 85% of New Hampshire's cities and towns.

According to published reports, Hursti said the only way to ensure fair election results is to vote on hand-counted paper ballots.

"You can always conduct an audit or recount because the voter's intent is recorded on a permanent reading," said Hursti, who has worked in computer programming for most of his life.

Audit to be done this month

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill (SB 43) that requires this unprecedented forensic audit of both the counting machines and also the hand recount that came up with the big discrepancy.

The town and the state each got one pick for the forensic team. Those two picks must then jointly agree who should be the third person on the panel.

The law requires the audit to be completed within 45 days of passage, which means it must be done by the end of this month.

The forensic audit could take place at the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council complex in Concord. The law stiputates that it cannot be held in Windham or at the State Archives Building where all secretary of state recounts are held.

The audit must be live streamed and accessible to the public.

The controversy in Windham began after a recount in the race for the town's fourth House seat between Republican Julius Soti and Democrat Kristi St. Laurent.

St. Laurent requested the recount after Soti was declared the winner by 24 votes on election night.

With the recount, Soti's margin of victory grew to 424 votes.

St. Laurent's vote total dropped by 99 votes, but the three Democratic candidates who finished behind her each gained 20 to 28 votes in the recount.

klandrigan@unionleader.com