Gardner: Iowa debacle can't happen here

Secretary of State Bill Gardner says the voting system New Hampshire uses would preclude problems like Iowa experienced with Monday’s Democratic caucus

Political stalwarts in New Hampshire expressed confidence that Monday’s Iowa caucus debacle would not repeat itself here next Tuesday, when the world focuses on the the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

The state’s top election official stressed that no apps are used to count or tabulate votes in the Granite State, unlike in Iowa, where a cellphone app frustrated efforts to quickly produce outcomes of some 1,600 caucuses.

The New Hampshire primary differs from Iowa caucuses in many regards, said Secretary of State Bill Gardner:

New Hampshire’s primary is an election run by municipal officials, as opposed to the political parties that run the Iowa caucuses.

New Hampshire voters fill out paper ballots in all 309 voting locations, from the most congested ward in Manchester to the most isolated of North Country towns.

The Accuvote machines used by most towns to count ballots can’t be hacked because they aren’t online.

And, as required by the state constitution, the moderator reads the results at each polling location while the clerk records them by hand.

In New Hampshire, “The voter marks the ballot with a pen or pencil. You can’t hack a pencil,” Gardner said.

He said he’s confident of no failures next Tuesday.

The leader of state Democrats also expressed full faith in the New Hampshire system.

Party Chairman Raymond Buckley stressed that the Iowa Democrats had to provide three numbers — the first round of a caucus tally, the final round and a state delegate equivalent.

“We’ve never had an issue with the New Hampshire primary. This is our 100th year of having the primary, and if there’s ever any issue we can do a recount,” Buckley said in comments distributed by the state Democratic Party.

Buckley contrasted Iowa’s system with New Hampshire’s, where a voter registers, marks a ballot and puts it in the Accuvote machine.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the New Hampshire primary will be 100 percent perfect,” he said.

Gardner said the election-night tally includes write-in and absentee votes. News media base their reports on tallies announced by moderators at the polls, he said. Results don’t become official, however, until they are received at his office and tabulated the following day.

Critics have long said that caucuses limit participation because of the evening time commitment. One of the solutions the Hawkeye State developed was an absentee ballot. But Gardner blocked that.

Gardner said he told Iowa party officials that absentee ballots would make the caucuses a primary, and he would have to move the New Hampshire primary ahead of Iowa.

National Democratic leaders ended up recommending waivers that allowed the Iowa and Nevada caucuses to operate without absentee ballots, something the party had previously endorsed, according to published reports.

In New Hampshire, some lawmakers have proposed a system similar to Maine, where primary voters can designate a second choice if their candidate is eliminated, Gardner said.

He opposes such a move.

“We’ve kept it simple when it comes to elections,” Gardner said. “The simpler, the better.”

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