Request for AG Investigation, high overvoted ballot rate in Derry/absentee ballots statewide

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Jan 6, 2021, 11:36:19 AMJan 6
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Jan. 6, 2021 Posted by Deborah Sumner

As of today, the AG’s office has confirmed it has received this request, no known action taken. I have removed contact info for three citizens requesting this.

December 2, 2020 (sent by regular mail, emailed Dec. 3)

Gordon J. MacDonald, Attorney General
NH Department of Justice
33 Capitol St.
Concord, NH 03301

Re: Request for Investigation, high overvoted ballot rate in Derry/absentee ballots statewide

Dear Mr. MacDonald,

1) We ask you to use your authority under RSA 656:42 IV to investigate an alarmingly high overvoted ballot rate in Derry for the November 2020 election. Derry reported a total of 6,428 absentee ballots of 18,100 ballots cast. Some would be overseas ballots and others tallied by hand. 

Enclosed is information from the eight computers used.  Computer one tabulated ONLY absentee ballots (572 over voted ballots, 14.2%); other absentee ballots were counted by other computers, with a 4.7% overvoted ballot rate when totals are combined (848 ballots).  Computer 5 also showed a high overvoted ballot rate, 5.8%.

You should be able to confirm the numbers with the town clerk.

In November 2018, Derry mostly tallied its absentee ballots on one computer, with an estimated 5% overvoted ballot rate for that computer. 

2) Are absentee ballots statewide showing a significantly higher voter disenfranchisement rate than election-day ballots?

3) If so, why? What are your recommendations for decreasing these numbers?

As we told you in September 2017, folds in absentee ballots may be misread as overvotes, there are many instances of computers misreading valid votes as overvotes and there are fraud possibilities. One can be targeted to absentee ballots where the voter’s party affiliation is known.

Since then, we have been doing some checks of overvoted ballots in various towns, but prior to this discovery, the highest was 2.5% in Jaffrey in the Nov. 2012 election.

NH doesn’t require reporting of overvotes and neither law nor the SoS requires local officials to print that information for the general election. (Only 2 of Nashua’s 9 wards had the requested overvote information available, 143 overvoted ballots of 10,702, 1.3%). It is impossible to know why or how many NH voters are being disenfranchised compared with other states or if certain races are impacted more.

Both Vermont and Massachusetts program their computers to notify election-day voters of a computer-read overvote or completely blank ballot so they can choose to request a replacement ballot and have their votes counted. NH doesn’t.

VT reports overvotes for each contest and each locality, as you can see here. 


 Overvote rate for President on election night was 278 of 370,968 ballots cast, .075%.

MA has recently completed its 3% post-election audit and found a total of 7 overvotes for all races counted on election night (100,349 ballots/over vote rate of .007%). Additional overvotes found in the audit (68 total for ALL races) were mostly attributed to 73 ballots not counted on election night.



In NH, we are finding overvoted ballot rates almost always exceed 1%. Ballots may contain more than one error, thus disenfranchising voters for more than a single contest. 

All three states had more absentee ballots this past election, but we see significant overvote voter disenfranchisement only in NH.

We ask that any review of Derry ballots be a transparent, public process and that your findings include recommendations to policy makers, election officials and or the Ballot Law Commission, which makes rules for the use of computers in NH. RSA 659:64 requires that NH enfranchises as many voters as possible. Appeal of McDonough, 149 N.H.105, 112 (2003).

Thank you. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Deborah Sumner           Barbara Glassman             Gerhard Bedding
Jaffrey, NH                      Nashua, NH                         Keene, NH 

Copies: Derry Town Moderator, Ballot Law Commission, ACLU-NH, DOJ attorneys-Anne Edwards, Jane Young, Nicholas Chong Yen
Gen Elec Overvotes - Derry.xlsx
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