Expert picked for team to lead Windham election audit

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, left, watches while Orville “Bud” Fitch, the office’s elections legal counsel, speaks to the Ballot Law Commission last November about the ballot discrepancy in the Windham election for state House seats.

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, Harri 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 asked 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.

Selectman Bruce Breton was 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.

On Monday night, a large crowd showed up at the Windham selectmen's meeting at 6:30 p.m., many voicing their support for Pulitzer. Windham officials told the group they would be removed from Town Hall if they continued to disrupt the meeting.

Town officials then moved the meeting to Windham High School so the crowd could be accommodated. The meeting reconvened around 8:30 p.m., with selectmen taking up Breton's request to reconsider.

"We have received over 3,000 emails from everywhere," said Breton. "And they agree with me that we made the wrong pick."

Breton's request to reconsider failed, with the three board members who voted in favor of Lindeman declining to make the motion. A motion to reconsider a vote must be made by a member of the prevailing side.

Board Chairman Ross McLeod cited the deadline looming as one reason for declining to reconsider the vote. 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 clock is ticking," said McLeod.

The meeting was recessed at least a dozen additional times, as members of the crowd kept interrupting the discussion among board members.

"I understand that you don't want to listen to what you don't want to hear," said McLeod.

By 9:30 p.m. the meeting had reconvened, with board members resuming discussion of topics on the posted agenda.

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.

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 to count ballots in 85% of New Hampshire’s cities and towns.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill (SB 43) that requires the 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 forensic audit could take place at the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council complex in Concord. The law stipulates 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 livestreamed and accessible to the public.

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.

Thursday, May 06, 2021
Wednesday, May 05, 2021