May 27—PEMBROKE, N.H. — The forensic audit analyzing Windham's results from the Nov. 3 election came to an end this week.
And now it's time for officials to analyze three weeks' worth of data and information to come to some conclusions.
As the audit team concluded its work Thursday, the final tasks included packing up and sealing documents to be taken back to the state's archives.
The audit came after Windham's totals and those of a state recount of the District 7 state representative race showed big discrepancies.
Town vote counts gave the four Republican candidates the top tallies and the win, but only 24 votes originally separated GOP candidate Julius Soti from Democrat Kristi St. Laurent, who then requested the recount, held Nov. 12.
The state's recount number gave the GOP candidates nearly 300 more votes each, but St. Laurent lost 99.
The first week included hand counting and numbering ballots, scanning the documents then running ballots through the machines, with specific attention paid to matching numbers, ballot batches, machine counts and who was earmarked to handle the ballots.
The second week involved teams doing a hand tally of the ballots, flagging anything they felt needed to be looked at, and putting information on spreadsheets.
Officials also began looking at how absentee ballots were folded and where specific fold lines fell on the ballot and if that could account for the discrepancies in candidate vote totals in the District 7 state representative race.
And with fold lines examined and found to be possibly affecting the way machines counted or didn't count votes, officials said it might be a reason for some vote differences.
"That seems to be one of the factors," said Harri Hursti, one of the audit leaders, earlier this week, "but it is not the only reason. It could be a strong contributor if not the main contributor, but we don't know."
Hursti said it most likely took several factors in a "perfect storm" to have this kind of impact on vote totals.
The final week had Hursti looking into the inner workings of each voting machine, examining the memory card and detailing how well and clean the machine functioned.
Hursti said this week that he and the other officials had no preconceived notion about what they might find.
"We follow the evidence and we have to look at what we have," he said, and added nothing so far is showing any evidence of fraud.
Hursti also fielded many questions daily from those wanting to know additional details, often asking questions about theories that Hursti often debunked as being false, calling some "flat out lies" he is seeing on social media.
"I'm sick and tired of all the false information on social media, all the political bias," he said.
Officials also vehemently continued to say the audit process was done in full view of cameras for the public. State officials did announce two instances when the livestream went dark for short periods of time.
Hursti said the work is not done and much analysis on the data collected the past three weeks continues.
The audit started May 11 at the Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke, a facility chosen for its secure location.
Sealed boxes containing Windham's 10,006 ballots from the Nov. 3 election arrived, along with the town's four AccuVote machines to be analyzed by audit leaders Mark Lindeman, Hursti and Philip Stark, chosen by Windham, the state, and jointly by both town and state, respectively.
The audit was also livestreamed continuously on the state's Department of Justice site.
Gov. Chris Sununu then signed Senate Bill 43 allowing the audit to start.
The audit team now has 45 days as per SB 43 rules, to complete its report that will be provided to the Secretary of State, the town of Windham and the ballot law commission, and then eventually to the public.