Testimony to House Election Law Committee re: HB 1605 Jan. 21, 2014
My name is Deborah Sumner. I live in Jaffrey. I am a former teacher, reporter, editor of education publications and have served as a ballot clerk in my town. My family has deep roots in NH, before it was NH. My NH ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and relatives have served in every possible public office in this state at both the town and state level. Public service is part of my DNA and our state tradition. I thank you for YOUR public service.
Although I believe random checks of the technology are essential and appreciate that the sponsors have brought this bill forward for discussion, I speak in opposition. Here’s why:
I was in the House gallery in Jan. 2008 when an earlier version of this bill was debated on the House floor. At that time I thought it was a good idea. I don’t now. I know more about the gap between the “official story” of our NH elections and what is really happening in the trenches. And, I now know what our constitution requires, public vote counts on election night, and that our constitution has been ignored since electronic voting was first approved in NH in 1987.
That Jan. 2008 debate changed my life. I witnessed the courage of three legislators, Reps. Claudia Chase, Betty Hall and Bob Perry who dared to tell the truth to what I believed at the time was Concord “group think.” They need citizens’ help, I remember thinking then.
I no longer believe it’s group think. And I’m here to tell you it’s okay to stop pretending. We citizens WANT you to be honest about the vulnerabilities of our current election system and we WANT you to work with us to ensure fair elections in NH in a way that is consistent with the spirit and intent of our constitution.
In Jan. 2008, Rep. Jasper spoke for the committee majority. He began: “This bill seeks a solution for a problem which does not exist in NH.”
From my six years of attention to this and citizen’s perspective, the PROBLEM is we are not following our constitution; it has been replaced with state policy that is contrary to it AND arbitrarily enforced. I had confidence in our elections when I listened to the debate in Jan. 2008. I have zero confidence now.
We citizens often hear how accurate recounts are. So I researched the recounts conducted in 2006 and 2008 (mostly state rep races) and found most in computer count towns were within 12 votes for a single candidate in a single town, but overall ranged from one candidate losing 121 votes in one town to two others gaining 51 votes. One significant error occurred in a hand count town. Looked like a stack of ballots didn’t get counted initially. Your researchers could verify that information and also look at any discrepancies in 2010 and 2012 recounts.
Other research I conducted prior to the Nov. 2010 election is attached to the end of this testimony and was shared with five moderators in my area before that election.
We citizens wanted to know how accurate the computers actually were on election night, especially for the high profile, high stakes races the 2009 advisory committee had recommended for special attention. The report said moderators should retain the option of hand counting those on election night to verify the count. It seemed to us Moderator Wally Fries, a member of the advisory committee, had come up with a REAL solution to the problem. We use the technology; moderators fulfill their legal duty to ensure an accurate count on election night, the public can observe, and any discrepancies between the two counts were reconciled before the official count was recorded. Check and balance. He always counted 1-3 contests, didn’t cost his town any extra money and he showed the public there was a reason to have confidence in their elections.
My Jaffrey moderator was planning on choosing one of the Nov 2010 federal races at random and hand counting ballots to verify the computer’s accuracy.
Three other moderators in our area checked with the SoS and decided not to do this. My moderator was beginning to feel a bit nervous out there on the limb all by himself. This Oct. 27 communication (attached) from Mr. Scanlan convinced him to change his mind. Since then, we have collected more than 100 signatures on petitions, with more than 50 people in Jaffrey volunteering to help count ballots if needed. But my moderator believes he needs to do what the SoS wants him to do. Meanwhile, other moderators are doing this election night count and did them for the Nov. 2010 election with no objection from the SoS office.
Mr. Scanlan said there’s no law requiring moderators to do the election night counts. I disagree. Our constitution requires it, RSA 659:63. “[The counting of votes shall be public…..] requires it. But current state policy is against some moderators fulfilling their legal responsibility to ensure accurate vote counting and reporting on election night.
Back to Jan. 2008: Majority ELC Opinion stated: “If we were to pass this legislation, it would give credibility to the theory that our machines cannot be trusted…” I’m here to tell you, elected officials are NOT the people you need to convince that all is fine with our NH elections. It’s the rest of us who need to be convinced. That number continues to grow as citizens meet one stone wall after another.
Summary: The Legislature either needs to develop legislation consistent with the spirit and intent of our constitution (your legal duty) or take a constitutional amendment forward that is consistent with your current policy. This bill is NOT consistent with our constitution and THAT is the problem I hope you will begin to consider and fix. Thank you.