Current Vote Counting Options for Jaffrey

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Deborah Sumner

Sep 1, 2016, 6:48:10 AM9/1/16

Currently, there are two options for counting votes in New Hampshire and in Jaffrey.

1. Hand counting

2. The AccuVote (computer)

Technically, under state law the Select Board has the authority to choose which method the town uses. In 2003, Town Meeting authorized $6,500 to purchase the AccuVote (then sold by Diebold).

In the 2012 and 2013 Town Meetings, Town Counsel interpreted the law as it is the Select Board's decision.  The 2016-17 Petition is addressed to them.

Whichever method is used, the Attorney General has said, Moderators are given significant authority to determine what procedures at their polling places are necessary to ensure an accurate count."

As explained in the "In the Beginning....our NH Constitution" post, it's the legal duty of the moderator to make sure votes are counted and reported accurately. 

One moderator in a hand count town, for example, has developed a double-count system that other moderators have adopted. Some towns have counters AND observers to make sure the count is accurate. One moderator in a town using the AccuVote began to choose one or two races every election to hand count and verify the totals, "to give the public confidence in the process," he said. Other moderators have also adopted that procedure.

We know that even if the pre-election testing (in test mode) is fine the AccuVote (in election mode) can be inaccurate (bugs, glitches, unintentional marks on ballots) and that it can be programmed to intentionally miscount votes. The computer can't determine "the intent of the voter" in the same way an experienced moderator can.

Currently, the state has implemented no internal controls to detect, correct or deter these events. It says that elections are a local responsibility and cost. The state advisory report (see link under "Information to Get You Started" posting) has recommended random hand count checks of the computer, but Jaffrey isn't doing that.

For example, in the Nov. 2012 election, the AccuVote reported that 71 Jaffrey voters (2.5%) had their votes invalidated because they voted for too many candidates for a particular office. Why did that happen? Could it be prevented from happening again? 

Unless a race is recounted, no one can look at the ballots without a court order.

Which counting method would do you prefer and why?

If you're not sure, what would be helpful to help you decide?

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