After almost 500 people showed up to a meeting to push the Windham Board of Selectmen to reconsider its pick for an election audit team Monday night, selectmen decided to stick with their choice.
Last month, the board chose Mark Lindeman, of the nonpartisan election-technology research group Verified Voting, to represent the town in an audit of its 2020 election results. On Monday, the state named Finnish data security expert Harri Hursti as its representative. Hursti was a member of the Verified Voting’s non-governing board of advisers until November, according to a Verified Voting spokeswoman.
The audit was ordered in a state law passed after a recount in the Nov. 3 election turned up about 300 additional votes for each of four Republicans in the race for Windham’s seats in the state House of Representatives.
Under the law, the state and the town each appointed one member to the audit panel. Those two members will choose a third member. The audit must be completed this month.
Critics have pointed to the vote discrepancy as proof of claims that the presidential election was tainted by inaccurate vote tallying by machines.
Selectman Bruce Breton was the lone opponent in the 3-1 vote for 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 Secretary of State Bill Gardner said were credible — though some Democratic leaders consider Pulitzer as a conservative partisan without election expertise.
“We have received over 3,000 emails from everywhere,” Breton said at Monday night’s meeting. “And they agree with me that we made the wrong pick.”
Board co-chair Ross McLeod had said during an April 19 board meeting that he was not interested in what people outside of Windham wanted the board to do — and he estimated almost 85% of emails he had received from Windham favored Lindeman.
“This is a Windham issue,” McLeod said on April 19. “This is not a statewide issue.”
With attention from national conservative media, including onetime Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, the Windham recount’s significance has increased for those who doubt the results of the 2020 election.
During his radio show Sunday, Bannon called for a crowd to pressure the selectmen to reconsider their choice.
Some 500 people heeded the call and showed up at Town Hall for the 6:30 p.m. meeting. Officials 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.
Most attended the meeting because they doubted Lindeman was nonpartisan, and felt the board of selectmen condescended to their concerns.
Theresa Feldmann of Londonderry said she drove to the meeting not because she had doubts about the 2020 election but because she was worried about Pulitzer after hearing about his involvement in other states.
But the loud, mostly un-masked crowd intimidated her, she said, so she went home and watched the meeting on public access TV.
Opposition to Lindeman was based in large part on an open letter he signed, questioning the necessity for a third audit in Maricopa County, Ariz.
Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he asked Lindeman about the letter; Lindeman told him he thought a third audit in Maricopa County would be redundant and a waste of public money because earlier hand recounts and machine audits had not found any problems.
Those at the meeting began chanting “stop the steal, stop the steal.”
Windham “didn’t have a lot of mail-in ballots,” Hohenberger said Monday night. “The other thing about this process that people have to realize, we’re all in this, trust us ....”
Booing cut Hohenberger off. When the jeers subsided, the selectmen said they would not reconsider their appointment of Lindeman. Members of the audience turned their back on the board members during parts of the discussion.
One woman who attended the meeting because she was worried about Lindeman, but who declined to be named, said the process only left her with more doubts.
Feldmann, watching the meeting on public access, said the proceedings made her nervous.
There were too many parallels to the lead-up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“They’re still riling up this base,” she said.