May 25—PEMBROKE, N.H. — As the forensic audit analyzing Windham's results from the Nov. 3 election enters its third week, audit officials are continuing to search for what caused major discrepancies between town numbers and those of a state recount.
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, along with the town's four AccuVote machines arrived via state police escort.
Audit leaders are Mark Lindeman, Harri Hursti and Philip Stark, chosen by Windham, the state, and jointly by town and state, respectively.
Elected and sworn officials representing different communities and political parties from around the region, including Derry and Londonderry, are also working as audit volunteers.
The audit comes after months of uncertainty due to a state recount of District 7 state representative votes from the Nov. 3 election that showed big discrepancies between a state recount and the town's numbers.
Town vote counts gave the four Republican candidates running for District 7 state representative 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 differed considerably from the Windham totals, giving GOP candidates nearly 300 more votes each, but St. Laurent lost 99.
Last month, Gov. Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 43 that led to the current audit.
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 mostly 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 more at how absentee ballots were folded and where specific fold lines fell on the ballot and if they possibly could account for some of the number differences in various candidates' vote totals from machine results, compared to the hand count.
There could be possible anomalies there, Hursti said.
Hursti also spent much of Monday scanning a series of absentee ballots with specialized microscopic equipment that zeroed in more on ink, fold lines and other ballot qualities.
"On social media, people were concerned that we didn't look at absentee ballots in their opinion," Hursti said, putting the ballots under the microscope so everybody is satisfied.
Tuesday's audit plan was to focus on auditing the machines and memory card data. And by week's end, materials are set to be packed up and signed off by an official chain of custody, with voting machines returning to Windham, and ballots and all accompanying documents sealed and delivered back to the state's archives.
"We still have a few days to find something we don't know yet," Lindeman said Monday.
Hursti also took time Monday to speak out about social media, where he said various theories were being presented about the audit. Hursti focused on false claims made about folded ballots and how scanning could somehow make marks disappear.
"That is false," Hursti said. "The fold doesn't make ink disappear."
Throughout the audit, officials leading the teams continue to answer questions submitted by the public.
Daily audit documents continue to be made available online at doj.nh.gov as well as the livestream access link. And according to SB 43, the audit must wrap up by May 27.