DERRY — A right-wing activist group released a video Wednesday alleging a Derry polling station volunteer is guilty of electioneering, after she was recorded by undercover operatives stating her Democratic leanings. A town official calls the allegations “trumped up.”
Project Veritas, a group led by activist James O’Keefe, alleges Beth Hunter, a volunteer greeter stationed at the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School polling station Tuesday, broke state law when she discussed political opinions in a conversation with individuals working for O’Keefe.
In a video apparently recorded by two activists pretending to be voters with a hidden camera and posted on the Project Veritas website, a woman asks Hunter who she thinks has the better chance of beating President Donald Trump. Hunter at first says she wishes she could tell them, but can’t tell the future.
When pressed to say who the top two candidates were, Hunter says, “Last night it was Bernie and Pete Buttigieg, last night. So, there you go. I can only tell you what was on the TV,” Hunter says.
“Can you tell us if that’s wise or not?” the woman asks Hunter.
“Oh, I think it is. I think voting any Democrat is wise,” Hunter responds.
Hunter mentions she campaigned for a candidate but says she can’t say whom. Later in the video, she goes on to express how she was “almost in tears” when Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom to right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh during the State of the Union Address.
O’Keefe asserts that Hunter’s comments rise to the level of criminal electioneering, which is defined in state law as acting in any way “specifically designed to influence the vote of a voter on any question or office” while performing the duties of an election officer.
Hunter was working at the school as a greeter from 2:30 to 8 p.m., according to Town Moderator Mary Till, and, in that capacity, was a sworn elections officer.
But Till said Hunter was targeted.
“I think they (the allegations) are clearly trumped up,” Till said.
She said Hunter only named two candidates to say who the top contenders apparently were, not to suggest who to vote for.
Till said she thinks Hunter made the pro-Democrat comment because the two young people who spoke to Hunter “cozied up” to her and, it seemed from the video, Till said, that Hunter was beginning to relate to them and the things they said.
But Till said Hunter still didn’t suggest they vote for any particular candidate.
“I think it was clearly an effort to make something out of nothing,” Till said.
The Secretary of State’s office was not prepared to comment on the allegations Wednesday.
“We’re aware that something happened in Derry; we’re just not focused on exactly what happened yet because we’ve been really busy on producing the official returns,” said David Scanlan, deputy secretary of state.
The Attorney General’s office says it’s looking into the matter.
“We are aware of the complaint and will review to determine what, if any, action is necessary,” spokesman Kate Spiner said in an email.